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Afield— The Old Wakefield Theatre, by' 

Senior, frontispiece, printed on thick paper, 

10, boards, as issued, 2s 6d Wakefield, 1894j 

/"^W*.*+ wt>.°| 






(CLASS OF 1876) 

DECEMBER 3, 1920 












©lb WakeMb XCbeatte 



Printed at the Radcliffe Press by W. H. Milnes 


r Wa~ 4 [o o . <\*i* 


DECE:*3ER 3, 1920 • 








and DECADENCE 115 


This little book sufficiently explains its own 
origin and scope. I have here only to gratefully 
acknowledge my indebtedness to the many friends 
who have given me the benefit of their local 
knowledge ; and especially to Dr. Wright, for 
MS. notes of playbills in his possession, and of his 
visits to the Theatre ; to Mr. Percival Barratt, 
for the loan of books of theatrical history ; to 
Mr. Charles Skidmore, Mr. G. V. Ellerton, 
Mr. Henry Clarkson, Mr. W. H. Hughes, and 
Mr. George Wright, for permitting me to see and 
take notes of playbills ; to Mr. Fred Simpson, for 
the loan of plans ; to Mr. George Roberts, of 
Lofthouse, for a note from Hewitfs papers ; to 
Messrs. Sherwood and Banfield,for their courtesy 
in showing me over the building; and to the latter 
for information respecting its last years. 



October i$th> 1894. 



Here's a marvellous convenient place for our rehearsal. 

— Midsummer Nighfs Dream. 

jlME was when plays taken from the 
Scriptures, and ranging in subject 
from the slaying of Abel to the tragic 
end of Judas, were wont to be presented in 
the fields hard by the parish church of 
Wakefield, and perhaps, earlier still, within the 
church itself. These primitive dramas, which 
may yet be read by persons of unusual per- 
severance, were native productions, written as 
well as acted in the neighbourhood ; and their 
performance attracted so great a concourse of 
people to the town, as to originate, in the 
opinion of the local historian, the bestowal of 
the epithet "merry" upon it. Whether what 

I B 


are now known as the Towneley Mysteries are 
in fact responsible for the — to us moderns — 
certainly somewhat mysterious juxtaposition of 
this adjective with the name of Wakefield may 
be left to the decision of the learned. That 
Wakefield, towards the end of the fifteenth 
century, was a dramatic centre seems indis- 
putable : and it is a fact that one may perhaps 
be pardoned for alluding to in this place, 
slightly connected though it be with the 
subject of these notes — the modern Wakefield 
stage. If, instead of containing only notes, 
the following pages could boast of being a 
history, the introduction at the outset of the 
Wakefield Mystery Plays would no doubt be 
quite in accordance with the practice once, 
and perhaps yet, fashionable amongst topo- 
graphers, of beginning as much as possible 
before the beginning. I possess a History of 
Knaresborough that opens in this impressive 
manner with an allusion to the colonists sent 



out by the Greeks and Phoenicians. It hardly 
accounts for Knaresborough, but it shows, of 
course, a certain amount of research on the 
part of the historian. But as I cannot lay 
claim to the name, I have no right to appro- 
priate the method. There is, however, in this 
case the excuse that the mystery plays of the 
later middle ages really were here — actually 
presented upon the very ground we of Wake- 
field tread; and, as it was in the form of 
plays for the playhouse that its crowning 
glory was added to English literature, for a 
town to have been associated even with the 
crude beginnings of our drama is surely some- 
thing to be remembered. And it may be that 
the reminder of this ancient local connection 
will add a little pleasant antiquarian colouring 
to the love with which the present inhabitants 
of Wakefield (some of them) regard an art 
still exhibited in their midst — an art, indeed, 
as perennial as human nature itself. 

3 B2 


The modern Wakefield stage — a stage in no 
wise central, nor differing from that of many 
another country town, and yet at one time a 
social institution of some importance — means, 
of course, the recently demolished playhouse in 
Westgate. Opened in September, 1776, the 
year in which Garrick closed his career, it stood 
for one hundred and eighteen years ; no great 
length of life for ordinary bricks and mortar, at 
any rate as our forefathers used them, but rather 
remarkable in a theatre, the sort of place that 
usually has a Phoenix-like habit of rising from 
its own ashes at much shorter intervals. 
Escaping somehow this fate, the old Wakefield 
Theatre remained during the whole of that time 
one and the same building, and during the 
greater part of the period must be considered 
to have been the head-quarters in Wakefield 
of dramatic art, good, bad, or indifferent, as 
might happen to be dictated by the drama's 
patrons for the time being, in accordance with 



the hackneyed line of Dr. Johnson's prologue. 
As such its annals reveal much that is 
interesting concerning the tastes and the 
manners of people, not, it is true, very remote 
from us in time, but still in some ways unlike 
us ; they illustrate the changes that have taken 
place in the old order of things theatrical, and 
they contain names, not a few, of more than 
provincial fame. The majesty of Mrs. Siddons, 
the vivacity of Mrs. Jordan, the classic grace of 
John Philip Kemble, and the passionate inten- 
sity of Edmund Kean have each been exhibited 
within its walls on more than one occasion ; 
and amongst performers of the second rank 
who have appeared upon its stage the names at 
least of O'Neill, Smithson, Vestris, Celeste, 
Charles Kemble, Emery, Charles Kean, Wallack, 
Phelps, and Bedford are still remembered. It 
is as no mere praiser of past times that I 
enumerate them; there were giants in those 
days no doubt, but the all-round artistic merit 



of stage representations was, I am persuaded, 
never greater than it is to-day. But these 
names show that this curious old building had 
been included in the orbit of many ' stars/ and 
was once a provincial theatre as good as any. 
And, moreover, just so far as it seemed insuffi- 
cient to us was it interesting as a record of what 
was considered sufficient in times past. 

The house in Westgate was during its long 
existence the only regular theatre in the town — 
it used to announce itself on the bills simply as 
" Theatre, Wakefield," — but other places have 
been occasionally used for dramatic entertain- 
ments, and some of them may be noted in 
passing. Before the theatre was opened there 
were two rooms, both apparently attached to 
inns, which were taken possession of from time 
to time by the strolling player ; the one situated 
in the Bull Yard, and the other in the George 
Yard. These we shall meet with hereafter. 
The Assembly Room at the old White Hart, a 



room said to have been about the size of the 
present Music Saloon — and in which, by the 
way, Stephen Kemble once gave recitations — 
was also during the early part of this century 
sometimes turned into a theatre. And in the 
York Hotel Yard, formerly Post Office Yard, is 
a warehouse, the upper floor of which was many 
years ago known as The Corn Market Theatre, 
the stage and gallery whereof still face each 
other in dusty silence. Here Incledon sang, 
between a melodrama and the farce. A single 
wooden stair leads up to what was the 
auditorium, and, except through the latter, the 
miniature stage was only reached by some stone 
steps outside the building. There have also 
been theatres, probably of the portable order, 
at various times in the Borough Market and in 
Wood Street; and of course the 'new' Corn 
Exchange was, and is, utilized for stage-plays. 
These, however, were but the more or less tem- 
porary camping-places of the Thespian waggon. 



At the date of the erection of the Theatre 
(1775-6) the site was the property of one James 
Banks, in whose family it remained for upwards 
of sixty years afterwards. Many stories are told 
of the mild eccentricity of Mrs. Banks, who 
lived in the large house in Drury Lane, just , 
behind the theatre, and who exercised, in virtue f 
of her ownership, the privilege of giving a 
certain number of free passes to the boxes. 
This lady was Dr. Wright's patient for some 
months, about the year 1833 \ but, he says, his 
services were dispensed with because he could 
not approve of her diet of toasted cheese and 
tarts, "the only things she could eat." After 
her death, which under these circumstances is 
not, perhaps, to be wondered at, the heirs of 
James Banks, none of whom bore his name, 
conveyed the theatre on the 23rd January, 
1839, to Joseph Smedley, " then residing at 
Gainsboro', in the County of Lincoln, come- 
dian," who had already been the manager for 




some time. Smedley's widow sold it in 1865. By 
this time, so far as I have been able to discover, 
the reputation of the house had begun to wane. 
On the 30th June in this year Melinda Smedley, 
yidow, and Georgiana Smedley, spinster, con- 
4 veyed to one Nathan Webster, of Wakefield, 
comedian, "All that building lately used as a 
Theatre, but now as an Alhambra," by which, 
no doubt the lawyer who drew the deed meant 
a music hall. Such it had now become, and, 
forsaking the error of its earlier days, knew the 
dangerous dialogue of the dreadful stage-play 
no more for many years. Those ancient Greek 
ladies, the dramatic muses, if they had for a 
long time any further connection with it, were 
at most but its casual mistresses. They could 
hardly be expected to feel quite at home in a 
place which dubbed itself after a Moorish 
palace, and added the incongruity of a li beer 
on" license. Even Webster seems to have 
reformed, and dropping the comedian, to have 



settled down into a simple beerhouse keeper, 
under which designation he sold the property 
in 1869. He no doubt derived this title from 
the fact of his having established just within the 
door of the theatre a drinking bar, through 
which the auditorium, now devoted to what 
somebody once called the least intellectual of 
the arts — meaning music, not drinking — could 
alone be reached. The theatre changed 
owners once or twice during the next year or 
two — perhaps it had become a rather speculative 
property ; and in September, 1 871, it was con- 
veyed to John Brooke, who kept the Black 
Horse public-house close by, under the painfully 
precise description of " that building lately used 
as a Theatre, but now used as a Concert or 
Music Hall . . . part whereof is now used 
as a Beerhouse by the said John Brooke." It 
was now at the bottom. Without going into 
the actor-manager controversy, which concerns 
only * the profession, 1 it is at all events best for 



the playgoer that a theatre should be managed 
by an actor : and in its best days the Wakefield 
theatre always was. A well-intentioned attempt 
in 1883 to raise it, and to give Miss Melpomene 
and her sister exclusive possession, " as of their 
former estate," was only partly successful ; and 
in November, 1892, the last stage-play was 
performed upon its boards. 

The theatre remained standing until 
March, 1894, and its appearance both with- 
out and within is familiar to many. It 
made no pretension to architectural distinction. 
Except for its three principal doors, side by 
side, and the iron and glass canopy or awning 
over them — a modern excresence — its facade 
differed but slightly from that of the plain, 
square dwelling-houses of red brick, dating 
from the eighteenth century, which are still 
a striking feature of the street. One would 
rather have pictured the theatre as it stood 
in the spacious, residential Westgate of ninety 



or a hundred years ago, amongst the mansions 
of its well-to-do patrons, and with pleasure- 
gardens within a stone's throw, than have 
shown it as in its latter days it was, sand- 
wiched between the harmless, necessary, but 
unpoetical establishments of a pork butcher 
and a retailer of hot fried fish and chipped 
potatoes. That, however, must be left to the 
historical imagination of the reader. Its gene- 
ral outside resemblance to the neighbouring 
residences was increased by the roof, which 
was covered with brown slates, and sloped 
upwards from all four sides at the same angle 
as theirs; though against this must be placed 
the fact that chimneys were conspicuous by 
their absence. Above the three doors was 
a kind of arcade of three round-headed, 
shallow depressions in the wall, from the 
middle and largest of which looked out a 
square window; an architectural device of the 
period, ingeniously meant to give variety, of 



which several examples are to be seen close 
at hand. Higher still, two circular and simi- 
larly purely ornamental depressions, like eyes, 
supported, in the heraldic sense of the word, 
the centre gallery window. The middle door 
was distinguished by a round head, with a sort 
of Doric pediment over it, a feature that the 
new iron awning to a great extent concealed ; 
originally, I think, this was the only entrance. 
Formerly the theatre was approached by some 
stone steps projecting into the pavement; but 
these in the general removal of all obstacles 
to modern hurry had been improved away, and 
the doors consequently looked unduly tall. In 
a note found amongst the papers of the late 
John Hewitt, hairdresser and historian, it is 
stated that on the occasion of certain public 
rejoicings — probably those at the fall of Napo- 
leon — the manager, "besides the illumination 
in each window, placed upon each iron rail 
of the palisading in the front a large lighted 



candle, which had a very pleasing appearance." 
Both railings and steps remained until com- 
paratively recently. 

The auditorium, like the outside, was 
plain and rectangular, and was capable of 
accommodating about a thousand people. 
The floor of the pit was level, and the two 
tiers, very narrow at the sides and all but 
square at the corners, did not slope towards 
the stage after the manner of boxes and gallery 
in theatres of modern build, but were horizontal 
also. Bare rows of undivided benches were the 
boxes in the old days ; and, indeed, the utmost 
pinnacle of luxury the so-called dress-circle at 
any time attained was represented by a few cane- 
bottomed chairs of the common pattern. Round 
each tier ran an open balustrade of oak, such as 
one sees on old-fashioned staircases, or round 
the galleries of edifices devoted to more solemn 
purposes. Latterly, however, the balusters on 
the box-tier had been covered on the outside 



with wood or canvas, somewhat crudely decorated 
to look like the fronts of modern circles, so 
that the effect of this pleasing resemblance was 
partly lost. But for this attempt at gaiety, 
and the act drop, the aspect of the auditorium 
was not dangerously exhilarating. Many of the 
pillars supporting the galleries were also of 
oak, and, indeed, except where they might 
have been of late years strengthened with iron 
here and there, the internal fittings, galleries, 
partitions, and staircases were all of wood. 
There was no proscenium arch appertaining 
to the structure of the building ; the wooden 
frame through which the stage-pictures were 
presented to the audience was hardly more 
substantial than the scenery ; and but for this 
slight partition, auditorium and stage were one 
large undivided apartment. It must therefore 
be considered fortunate that the common fate 
of theatres never overtook this one, and that 
without accident it came at last to be pulled 



down, to make way for the better arranged and 
more elegant house that now stands upon its site. 
The stage faced towards Westgate, and what 
may be called the accessory apartments were 
to the spectator's right, in a narrow building 
running parallel with the length of the theatre 
on its eastern side. Here was the room used 
by the patrons of the boxes for refreshment, 
and which originally ran back beyond the 
auditorium into the magical region known as 
' behind.' Where it adjoined the wings there 
was a hole in the wall through which tradition 
says the thirsty actor received his refreshment 
whilst waiting for his cue. The stage end 
of this room was, however, in recent times 
partitioned off, and used as a green-room. 
Immediately beyond, on the same side of the 
stage, a wooden staircase led by two flights to a 
long, narrow chamber above, and gave access 
also to the ' flies.' This chamber, unceiled, with 
open beams revealing the slates of the roof, was 



the ladies' dressing room. It rather suggested 
Hogarth's picture, Strolling Actresses in a 
Barn — with the strolling actresses left out, of 
course, for it was untenanted when I visited it. 
Another barn-like place on the ground floor, 
further back still, served the purpose of a 
tyring-house for the gentlemen of the company. 
It is also variously described in plans that I 
have seen as a brewhouse and a stable, having 
been at times used as such. In 1871, during 
the music hall period, the whole of the space 
usually occupied by the wings on the right side 
of the stage (spectator's left) was boxed off, and 
would have afforded further accommodation for 
performers ; but as it was impossible for anyone 
to make entrance or exit * right/ so long as that 
state of things continued, it could never have 
co-existed with the playing of stage-plays, and 
must have been done away with when the 
theatre reverted to its original purpose. From 
the ' stable ' there was a door into Vaudeville 

17 c 


Yard (the nomenclature hereabouts is of the 
stage, stagey) through the eastern wall, a portion 
of which, unlike the rest of the building, was of 
stone, and evidently of considerable antiquity. 
It is supposed to have formed part of the 
ancient Westgate Bar, and it had been utilized as 
it stood by the builder of the theatre, just as the 

* western wall of the latter has been left standing, 

and is now incorporated with the new structure. 
The stage entrance was through the archway 
leading out of Drury Lane, or Play House 
Yard, as it was formerly called, before a 
thoroughfare was made through old Mrs. Banks's 
large garden into the Back Lane. 

Such were the more striking features of 
the theatre opened by Tate Wilkinson, actor, 
author, and manager, in 1776, the fashionable 
resort of the exclusive little Wakefield world in 
the Georgian era. Standing upon its empty 

\ stage in the present year, just before it was 

pulled down, 



" like one who treads alone 
Some banquet hall deserted, 
Whose lights are fled, whose garlands dead, 
And all but he departed," 

it would have been easy to moralize. There is 
always something that touches one about the 
interior of a building that has witnessed the ebb 
and flow of successive generations, and not the 
less because it may have been devoted to their 
amusement, whilst they fretted their hour upon 
the wider stage of the universal theatre. But, 
after all, the ' yesterday's roses ' kind of senti- i 

ment seems rather thrown away upon a place J 

the chinks and crannies of which were found to s 

be filled with nut shells, and, in truth, its time 
was fully accomplished. The roses belonged at -. 

the very least to the day before yesterday, and 
their odour, I am told, had become strangely 
changed. Artists who had to pursue their 
vocation in the old house have in these *' 

degenerate days been known to complain ji 

of its accommodation: and it was owing to f» 

19 C 2 


representations made from behind the curtain 
to that guardian of ' the profession/ the Actors' 
Association, that the building as a theatre 
received its quietus. But it is now no more, 
and de mortuis nil nisi bonum. 




What ! This gentleman will out-talk us all. — 

Taming of the Shrew. 

|HE little volumes of the mercurial first 
manager of the Wakefield Theatre are 
naturally the chief source of information 
as to its earlier years. Tate Wilkinson was 
born in London on the 27th October, 1739. 
His father, the Reverend Dr. John Wilkinson, 
of the Savoy Chapel, suffered transportation for 
offences against the Marriage Acts when Tate 
was but seventeen. Thrown thus early upon 
his own resources, and with a strong bent 
towards the stage, he contrived, after being 
rebuffed by Rich, of Covent Garden, to win the 
good offices of Garrick by an exhibition of his 
talents for mimicry, and made his first appearance 



at Drury Lane as a torch- bearer in the last 
act of Romeo and Juliet under that great actor's 
management. This was in 1757. Coming to 
man's estate he afterwards appeared " in almost 
every principal theatre in the three Kingdoms," 
as he tells us in his Memoirs ; giving a long list 
of them, with the three London houses, the 
Dublin, Bath, and Edinburgh theatres at the 
top, and Wakefield at the bottom. In 1766 
he invested his savings — some two thousand 
pounds — in the York Theatre, and settled down 
to the management of the York circuit, — a posi- 
tion he maintained with credit during the 
remainder of the century. He was acquainted 
with everyone of importance in the theatrical 
world of his day, and many afterwards famous 
performers received a part of their training in 
his company. As an actor he seems to have 
been rather a clever imitator than a performer 
of much originality or thoughtfulness. As a 
writer he modestly disclaims all pretension to 



style ; and, in fact, his Bohemianism not seldom 
kicks against the requirements of consecutive 
narrative, and occasionally even breaks through 
the rules of grammar. But his writings show no 
little observation of human nature — especially 
' professional ' human nature — and withal a just 
knowledge of the principles of the actor's art. 
These, of course, he could hardly help acquiring. 
Something of the general character of his books 
and that of their author will appear from the 
passages relating to Wakefield, which are quoted 
in this section. 

It seems to have been by an accident that 
Tate Wilkinson first turned his attention hither- 
ward. He had been accustomed to take his 
company to Beverley after York, but having 
given offence to the Mayor of the former place 
he was compelled to seek 'fresh woods and 
pastures new.' For mayors were mayors then ; 
and when, one night in 1771, his worship of 
Beverley, Colonel Appleton, arrived at the Hull 



Theatre after the termination of the customary 
time for reserving seats (the end of the first act), 
and found those he had taken already occupied, 
he took himself off "swelling with dignity 
almost to bursting, and vowing vengeance on 
the Wilkinson," as his victim puts it ; a vow 
which he was still angry enough two years later 
to fulfil, when Wilkinson with his company 
visited Beverley, by refusing them permission to 
perform, and keeping them idle for the three 
weeks that they remained there. But the poor 
player had in those days to put up with scant 
justice from ' the quality,' of whose manners we 
shall presently have another curious illustration 
at Wakefield itself. 

Under the circumstances it was unlikely 
that Wilkinson would try Beverley again in the 
autumn of 1774. 

"Colonel Appleton's treatment about that time 
having rendered Beverley to me a very disagreeable and 
doubtral situation, I lucidly obtained Wakefield for the 



season of the year usually allotted to Beverley, which on 
the first trial answered so exceedingly well that I had a 
regular and commodious Theatre built there, which is 
frequently honoured with an audience of elegance, not to 
be seen in many of the larger towns of this Kingdom." 

The Wandering Patentee, from which this 
and the following extracts are taken, was 
written at various times between 1790 and 1795, 
and covers a period going back to 1765. It 
seems desirable to explain this in view of the 
Wilkinsonian habit of changing, without warning, 
from reminiscences to statements of facts existing 
at the time of writing, and vice versa. 

"The neighbourhood of Wakefield is opulent, 
genteel, and numerous ; and whenever they please to be 
unanimous and patronize the Theatre, a stranger, even 
from London, would be astonished at beholding the 
number of gentlemen's elegant carriages attending that 
Theatre, to convey their wealthy and spirited owners to 
their neighbouring villas ; several of which may be termed 

This sort of thing could not but be gratifying 
to a " genteel neighbourhood," whose patronage 



our author continued to solicit from time to 
time for some years after the publication of his 
book. He now jumps back to the year 1774 — 
where he was — and before " that Theatre " was 

"We had a shabby Theatre there, but better than 
the inhabitants of that town had ever been accustomed to. 
Decent theatres in the country were almost unknown 
thirty years ago. We had to oppose Mr. Whiteley that 
season. However, we not only obtained victory but 
defeated and routed the enemy. ,, 

The enemy so superabundantly overcome 
was in possession of a theatre in the George 
Yard, and included in its ranks the celebrated 
Miss Farren, afterwards Countess of Derby, who 
was playing the part of Columbine in " a new 
Pantomimical Entertainment " or after-piece 
called Old Mother Red Cap. The "shabby 
Theatre" in which Wilkinson's company 
appeared was in the Bull Yard — " the bad little 
Theatre in the Bull Yard" as he elsewhere calls 
it — and whither he came again in September, 



1775, pending the opening of the "regular and 
commodious " one — the house that lasted to our 

The account given in The Wandering 
Patentee of the first season must be here 
reproduced on account of the light it throws 
upon the manners of the age, and the example 
it affords of Wilkinson's curious style, although 
the extract is somewhat lengthy. 

"Mrs. Mattocks made me a compliment of her 
performance at Wakefield, on Saturday, September 7th, 

1776, which was the first night of performing in the new 
Theatre of that pleasant town and neighbourhood. The 
play was The Beggar's Opera, Macheath and Polly, Mr. 
and Mrs. Mattocks, with The Musical Lady, that 
character by Mrs. Mattocks." 

The reader will remember Elia's description 
of Mrs. Mattocks — " sensiblest of viragos." 
She was long at Covent Garden, retiring in 
1807, but she lived until 1826. 

" The race-week followed, and the new Theatre was 
greatly attended. Mr. Earle, of Beningbrough, near 



York, was steward, and on a visit at Sir John Smyth's, 
near Wakefield. The Hypocrite and The Author was 
(sic) acted on Saturday, September 14. Every part of 
the evening's entertainment went off with such eclat as 
occasioned that truly well-bred gentleman, his lady and 
party, to stand up, bow, courtesy, &c, by way of 
approbation for their good entertainment. I was so 
puffed up with conceit and vanity, that I looked on 
myself as firmly seated in the opinion of box, pit, and 
gallery of my new theatre — but after sunshine comes a 

On Sunday, the 15th of September, I gave a dinner 
at the Black Bull, to some friends and the whole 
company. The banquet was good and plentiful. Success 
to the Theatre, and the healths of the worthy inhabitants 
of Wakefield, were drank in large libations, and nothing 
cross happened between the cup and the lip, though the 
cup and the lip frequently encountered each other ; but 
each repetition was in a friendly, not a hostile manner. 
It grew towards night, yet all was well — neither scandal 
nor bickerings, either with the manager, players, or 
individuals disturbed our social board, nor did any hostile 
invasion interrupt our mutual felicity; and I felt as 
grand, and breathed as high as the flattered Alexander 
the Great at his banquet (which, by-the-bye, was the 
play appointed for the Monday night following) when lo ! 
in all our calm, an unexpected storm arose, which had 
nearly set my famed Persepolis on fire ; the particulars 
of which unfortunate circumstance were precisely as 



But instead of giving them our manager 
shoots off into ' another story,' as Rudyard 
Kipling would say, returning to Wakefield, after 
a page or so, in this manner — 

" On a Sunday night, September 15, 1776, as I have 
lately mentioned, a gentleman in liquor happened to be 
in the bar of the Bull Inn, which was the time of my 
public dinner, when Mr. Murray (a gentleman of family 
and an excellent actor, now at Bath), happened to be 
there ; and I suppose from some wrong, or slight offence 
before given — as I would hope that no gentleman, 
unprovoked, could behave in so unbecoming a manner — 
the gentleman ordered the waiter to turn the player out 
of the bar ; this produced a quarrel, and I dare say both 
were wrong, and warm with the juice of the grape when 
they proceeded to blows. The Monday night, after the 
play, some gentlemen acquainted with the aggressor, not 
only came themselves, but sent for some gentlemen thirty 
miles distant, to banish the manager, and shut up the 
theatre, for an offence that had been committed at the 
tavern— Good God ! what is it a player had not better 
be, if such acts of power were often put in practice ! 
Had Mr. Murray given any offence in his profession on 
the stage, that certainly was the place to decide, and to 
acquit or condemn. But if quarrels in taverns, or in 
private, are to be brought against the player at the 
theatre (allowing the player ever so culpable), it 



undoubtedly is an overbearing act, void of sense, reason, 
and every considerate good quality. I was called on for 
Mr. Murray to instantly come on the stage, and ask 
public pardon for having affronted a gentleman. Mr. 
Murray would not come when he was called, for he 
looked upon himself, he said, as the injured person ; and 
as to asking pardon, he certainly never would do so, and 
thereby degrade himself. I was then called upon to 
dismiss Mr. Murray immediately. That I declared (and 
with truth) was not in my power, as Mr. Murray was 
under article to me, with a severe penalty attending the 
breach of that article ; but that unless the gentlemen 
could settle the business to their satisfaction, Mr. Murray 
should not appear on the stage at Wakefield again. The 
riot lasted from nine o'clock to near one, as those 
gentlemen would not suffer the farce to go on." 

The matter did not end there, for Wilkinson 

and Murray were sent for by "Mr. Justice 

Zouch" to the White Hart, where, says our 

manager — 

" Every method was used to win or compel Murray 
to ask pardon, which he had the spirit to refuse. The 
House of Correction was then genteelly mentioned for 
me as well as the rest, as infringing on the Act of Parlia- 
ment. Justice Zouch observed, that as Patentee of York, 
I certainly could not be committed as a vagrant, having 



a settled habitation ; and he hoped Mr. Murray would 
think better of it." 

Mr. Murray, however, did not think better 
of it, and the Wakefield public saw him no 
more. The theatre was boycotted for the rest of 
the season by the clique to which his assailant 
belonged, which, judging from the remark Wil- 
kinson makes as to friendly relations between 
" the races and the company" not being restored 
for two years afterwards, seems to have been a 
clique not unconnected with that institution. 
This and the Beverley episode show that the 
path of the theatrical manager in the eighteenth 
century was not free from difficulty— except in 
stepping out of the frying-pan into the fire. 
Fortunately a lady came to the rescue. 

" Lady Armytage sent her compliments for me to 
drink tea at Sir John Smyth's, that week of confusion. 
She seemed truly affected at the unlucky circumstance, 
particularly as the matter originated from a cause wherein 
the theatre had not any concern. Her ladyship bespoke 
a play on the Friday, September 20th, 1776, which 

3 1 


occasioned a genteel and quiet audience. Indeed, the 
inhabitants one and all were violent in their wishes for 
the theatre, and in their attachment to Mr. Murray ; and 
had it not been for that body shewing a determination to 
preserve the playhouse and actors from injury, I do not 
think it would have ended so well as it did. But here is 
a lesson that we should never be secure of happiness 
from appearances." 

And so, pointing a moral, our manager records 
the closing of the theatre " in quiet," on Sept. 
2 1 st, and goes on to Doncaster. 

The following season (1777) seems to have 
been only remarkable for the appearance of a 
Mr. Vincent as Romeo, on September 10th; 
a gentleman, we are informed, too lazy to make 
himself letter-perfect in his parts. He after- 
wards took orders, married money, settled in 
the neighbourhood, and condemned the stage 
from the pulpit; a course the last item of 
which Wilkinson naturally considers unhand- 
some under the circumstances. 

The season of 1778 was so successful that 
Wilkinson was persuaded to return for an 



additional week later in the autumn, "the 
Company being greatly reinforced with Mr. 
John Kemble, Mr. and Mrs. King, Mr. and 
Mrs. Hitchcock, Mr. Wood (from the Hay- 
market), and a Mr. Waylett." He opened 
with Rowe's Tamerlane^ with the following 
caste : — 

Tamerlane . . . . Mr. Cummins. 

Bajazet • • . . Mr. Wilkinson. 

Selima . . . . Mrs. Inchbald. 

Arpasia . . . . Mrs. King. 

and The Deserter — 

Henry . . . . Mr. Wood. 

Simpkin .. .. Mr. Suett. 
Louisa .. .. Mrs. Hitchcock. 

Cummins was a provincial favourite who 
remained in the York Company till his 
death in 1817, on the stage of the Leeds 
Theatre. Elizabeth Inchbald was afterwards 
well known as the authoress of two novels 
and a large number of plays. She would at 

33 d 


this time be considerably under thirty. Richard 
Suett, from 1780 to 1804 a member of the 
Drury Lane Company, was in those days 
famous for his representations of bibulous 
parts, the characteristics of which in later 
years he unfortunately studied far too intro- 
spectively. Kemble appeared on the Wednes- 
day as Captain Plume in Farquhar's comedy 
of The Recruiting Officer. The future manager 
of Drury Lane and Covent Garden would be 
then only twenty-one. But notwithstanding this 
company of clever people the return visit did 
not justify Wilkinson's expectations. 

On September 6th, 1779, tne theatre was 
opened with "the altered play of The Comedy 
of Errors" and The Apprentice; but half an 
hour after the curtain should have been drawn 
up there was but the sum of thirty shillings 
in the house. This beggarly account of empty 
boxes Wilkinson explains by saying that it was 
before the races, and that the Wakefield people 



"never, unless on some very extraordinary 
occasion, have hitherto attended the theatre 
before the race week, and then like a jack 
wound up to its height they find the way, and 
spin and flutter to the theatre, till its close for 
the season drops the weight" This, as he 
elsewhere quaintly puts it, was because " Every- 
body knows that Everybody will be there in 
that week, and that Everybody must be there 
when all the world is to be there." Wakefield, 
at this time, was nothing if not fashionable. 

For the next five or six years the theatre 
was regularly opened in September, but the 
seasons appear to have been uneventful. The 
afterwards famous Mrs. Jordan, whose laugh, 
Hazlitt said, did one good to hear it, joined 
Wilkinson's company about 1782, and played 
in it at Wakefield as in other towns upon the 
circuit. In 1783 she played here William in 
the opera of Rosina — what Wilkinson calls " a 
breeches character" — and in 1785 was in 

35 D2 


receipt of £1 us. 6d. a week. However, on 
September 9th of the last-named year she 
made, at Wakefield, her last appearance as a 
regular member of his company, and betook 
herself to London for c betterment.' Her suc- 
cess was remarkably rapid, and the next year 
she was in a position to make her own terms 
with Wilkinson, namely, " shares " ; indeed he, 
whilst acknowledging the lady's histrionic talents, 
and "her humanity and goodness to her late 
parent," is compelled, he says, " as Mr. Manager, 
to declare, like Mr. Foote in his i Devil upon 
Two Sticks,' that Mrs. Jordan in making a 
bargain is too many for the cunningest devil 
of us all." As an actress, as everyone knows, 
she excelled in hoydens, as girls who ought 
to have been boys, and in the kind of part 
now called 'principal boys/ who are always 
girls. She continued on the stage until 18 14, 
and died at St. Cloud, near Paris, two years 
later. One hardly goes to an epitaph for a 



faithful portrait, but that composed for Mrs. 
Jordan epitomises so well her strong points, 
and the tongue of Horace is in modern times 
so usually reserved for the praises of lives 
moulded on somewhat more conventional lines 
than hers, that I have ventured to copy it in 
a note.* 

The year 1786 is memorable in Wakefield 
theatrical history for the first appearance of 
Mrs. Siddons. That great actress, at the 
mention of whose name Sir Joshua's stately 
portrait and almost statelier compliment inevit- 
ably come to mind, was then over thirty years 
of age, and no novice in her profession. Ten 

* "M. S. Dorothea Jordan, quae per multos annos 
Londini, inque aliis Britannia^ urbibus, Scenam egregie 
ornavit ; Lepore comico, Vocis suavitate, Puellarum 
hilarium, Alteriusque sexus, Moribus, habitu, imitandis, 
Nulli secunda ; Ad exercendam earn, Qua tarn feliciter, 
Versata est artem, Ut res egenorum, Adversas sublevaret, 
Nemo Promptior. £ vita exiit Tertio Nonas Julii, 181 6, 
Annos Nata 50. Mementote. Lugete." 



years before, in the year in which our theatre 
was opened, she had made her unsuccessful 
debut at Drury Lane, somewhat overawed, it 
would seem, by the reputation of Garrick, with 
whom she acted, and who was then just about 
to retire. From Easter to Whitsuntide, 1777, 
she was at York with her friend, our manager, 
playing, amongst other parts, Euphrasia to his 
Evander in The Grecian Daughter \ and in 1782 
had returned to the London boards, this time 
to conquer. Wilkinson — with whom she was 
on intimate terms, and whose daughter Patty 
continued her companion up to her last years — 
brought her to Leeds in September, 1 786, and 
had evidently no intention at first of introducing 
the tragedienne to a Wakefield audience, she 
being under an engagement to go on to Liver- 
pool almost immediately; but the Wakefield 
playgoers inserted in the Leeds newspaper a 
sarcastic acknowledgment of Mr. Wilkinson's 
"disinterested though unmerited attention to 



them," and, as the result, Mrs. Siddons played 
Belvidera in Venice Preserved in Wakefield 
Theatre on the 6th September. The same 
week, on the Saturday, Mrs. Jordan played 
in The Country Girl and The Romp two 
of her best impersonations; but Wilkinson 
observes that "Melpomene's bowl and dagger 
having left such an awful gloom, even Thalia 
could not laugh, or if she did it was very 
mortifying, as it was to herself almost without 
company, or any throng of visitors." The 
receipts on the Wednesday when Melpomene 
played (at London prices) were J[fil 6s. 6d. 
The Romp only produced ^38 12s. This 
also was before the race-week. Stars, be it 
observed, had to be brought to attract the 
Wakefield people into the theatre before their 
wonted time ; during the carnival (of horseflesh) 
when they went to stare at one another the 
stock company sufficed. 

Among the plays given at Wakefield during 



the season of 1787 were BickerstafTs Love in 
a Village, Lionel and Clarissa, BickerstafTs 
Padlock, The Duenna (a comic opera by R. B. 
Sheridan), Comus, BickerstafTs Maid of the 
Mill, The Beggar's Opera, and The Deserter. 
Kemble appeared again the following year, 1788, 
playing Othello, Richard III., and Hamlet, on 
September 3rd, 4th, and 6th. In June, 1789, 
his greater sister came again, this time for two 
nights, playing Jane Shore and Isabella, and 
Wilkinson opened as usual in September. Lady 
Pilkington gave her patronage one night, and 
Wilkinson acted Cadwallader in Foote's Play of 
The Author, by desire of Lady Mexborough. 
He finished the season September 21st with 

Nothing of importance is recorded of the 
season of 1790. On September 5th, 1791, was 
performed (for the author's benefit) a comedy 
called The Lucky Escape, written by Mr. Richard 
Linnecar, of Wakefield, and the next year, on 



September 19th, this gentleman had another 
benefit, when his five-act tragedy, The Generous 
Moor was produced. These plays, together 
with another comedy entitled The Plotting 
Wives, sundry songs, bacchanalian, patriotic, 
and descriptive of the charms of Chloe, some 
'Strictures on Freemasonry,' and verses 'On 
the Death of a favourite Pug, wantonly Killed 
by a Stone,' had been printed in 1789; the 
volume is still extant and well deserves the 
title of The Miscellaneous Works of its author. 
Anyone, therefore, who obtains it may (possibly) 
read the five acts of very blank verse of which 
The Generous Moor consists ; and though he 
will see at once why Mustapha, the bold, bad 
Dey of Tangier, after being stabbed by a fair 
but virtuous captive, and exclaiming " O I am 
killed!" should continue to do most of the 
talking through two subsequent scenes (the lady 
having been a little too hasty for the dramatist), 
he will probably have more difficulty in 



deciding whether Hasan, who turns Christian 
and commits suicide rather than survive his 
friend (who doesn't die), or Hali, who surrenders 
a dusky maiden (who won't look at him) to her 
Spanish lover is meant to be the more generous 
Moor of the two. " The receipt," says Wilkinson, 
speaking of the night when this piece held the 
Wakefield stage, " was the greatest I had ever 
known, being equal, at the common prices, to 
Mrs. Siddon's acting there at London prices." 
Who shall say that the masterpieces of dramatic 
literature are meant for the study after this ? 

Amongst the other plays performed at 
Wakefield during the season of 1792 were The 
Provoked Husband, by Vanburgh and Cibber 
(September 5 th), and The Gamester \ by Moore 
(September 7th), The theatre was closed 
September 24th. 

Linnecar had another benefit in the autumn 
of 1793, but what was performed on that occa- 
sion I have not discovered. Perhaps it was the 



remaining play of his trilogy, The Plotting 
Wives, which had been given at York in 1769 ; 
when, as he tells us, " It was not damn'd, but 
the Author was in Purgatory all the Time of its 
Performance, ,, a remark, on the whole, funnier 
than anything in the comedy itself. This year 
seems to have seen the last of the Wakefield 
Races, the race-course coming under the provi- 
sions of the local Inclosure Act ; and we find 
Wilkinson lamenting their abolition in the 
words of Shylock — "You take away my life 
when you take my means to live." Yet he 
says of the following year, " Wakefield season 
was full as good as I ever remember it f and 
probably his estimate of the dependence of the 
theatre upon the races was an exaggerated one. 
No doubt during race-weeks and Assize-weeks 
the country towns were full of people from a 
distance on pleasure or business bent ; but still 
there were the inhabitants, "violent in their 
wishes for the theatre/' as he himself says, 



and they must have counted for something. 

Amongst the other well-known actors of this 
time must be mentioned Elliston, of whom 
there is a full length portrait as Hamlet in the 
possession of Mr. Clarkson, of Alverthorpe Hall, 
and who was a member of Wilkinson's company 
for a year or two towards the close of the 
century. I do not know whether he afterwards 
visited Wakefield. 

It appears from a letter written by Mrs. 
Siddons in May, 1796, that she was about 
to visit York and Leeds again during the 
summer of that year. Her next tour in the 
provinces was in the summer of 1801, and she 
may have appeared at Wakefield then. But we 
no longer have Tate's gossipy chronicle to help 
us to complete our peep at the Wakefield 
Theatre in the eighteenth century ; which, by 
the way, he just outlived, dying in 1803. 




How chances it they travel ? Their residence, both 
in reputation and profit, were better both ways. — 


^EFORE following the fortunes of the 
Wakefield Theatre during the early 
part of this century, some points of 
contrast between the circumstances of a theatrical 
company at that time, and the touring life of 
to-day may be noted. For many of these the 
railway is, of course, responsible. Instead of 
being whirled by special trains from Hull to 
Brighton, and from Brighton back to Glasgow 
within the fortnight, the old managers made a 
consecutive and comparatively dignified progress 
through the single district in which their ' circuit ' 
was. After York, Wakefield; after Wakefield, 



Doncaster ; sometimes a week at Pontefract, or 
an excursion to Sheffield ; then to Hull u for 
winter quarters"; then York again (to take 
Wilkinson's usual round) and so on, every year. 
As a consequence, companies not only re- 
mained for several weeks in one place, but 
re- visited the same towns at stated intervals ; 
and their members, often for some years 
substantially the same, became well known in 
their own proper persons to the public whom 
they lived to please. There was, indeed, a 
lower grade of much despised strollers, not 
attached to the regular theatres, but performing 
in inns, booths, barns, or wherever they could 
find a room, such as the band of u Jemmy 
Whiteley," whom Wilkinson found entrenched 
in the George Yard in 1774. And, on the other 
hand, there were the ' stars ' and London people, 
whose appearances at country theatres for one, 
two, or three nights only, kept them at a 
celestial distance from their provincial admirers. 



But between the two came the local stock 
companies, in whose leading performers the 
playgoing public took a pride as belonging to 
and reflecting credit on the neighbourhood. 
There was, for example, Wilkinson, for upwards 
of thirty years constantly at the head of 
theatrical affairs in Yorkshire ; he speaks of his 
friends u in my own circuit." Then there was 
Frodsham, called ' the York Garrick,' considered 
doubtless by many of the inhabitants of that 
city the equal, and by himself certainly the 
superior of his prototype; and Cummins, who 
was so great a favourite that the gallery at York 
candidly informed Kemble himself that "he 
cudna shoot oot laik Coomens." Such men, 
and others, the London stage never tempted 
from the scene where their popularity was 
established. Cummins, it will be remembered, 
was acting at Wakefield in the seventies, and he 
continued a member of the York company until 
his sudden death on the Leeds stage in June, 



18 1 7, as he was playing m/ane Shore. No doubt 
in his later years he got to rant, to " shout out," 
to split the ears of the groundlings ; but he was 
regarded with a certain local pride. Witness the 
following from the columns of the Wakefield 
paper shortly after his death. The italics are 

" To his (the manager's) highly laudable design of 
appropriating the benefit of the first night to the benefit 
of Miss Cummins we would more particularly call the 
attention of our readers. The design, we understand, is 
to purchase an annuity for the oldest daughter of that 
once meritorious member of the histrionic corps. But a 
short time ago we had the sorrowful task of recording 
the awful and sudden affecting death of this worthy man 
while engaged in the discharge of his professional duties. 
Too well and too long have his merits as an actor been 
known to stand in need of any panegyric we can bestow. 
From youth to age have his talents been unsparingly 
exerted for the gratification of his auditors within the 
sphere of this county, where we may say succeeding 
generations have bestowed upon him their welcome 
applause. But not less were his deserts in the domestic 
circle, where he discharged with fidelity the sacred duties 
of husband, father, and of friend. These considerations, 

4 8 


we trust, will be sufficient to procure a full and -over- 
flowing assemblage on that occasion as a tribute of 
respect to departed worth, as a mark of the high admira- 
tion in which his talents and virtues were held, and of 
sympathy at the awful manner in which their exertion 
here was terminated." 

This is interesting, besides, as a specimen 
of the journalese of the period. 

And in those days the age of patronage had 
not yet passed away. The tradition of the 
Statute of Elizabeth inflicting penalties on 
"common players of interludes and Minstrels 
wandering abroad, other than players of inter- 
ludes belonging to any Baron of this realm or 
any honourable personage of greater degree," 
seems not to have been extinct ; and partly, 
perhaps, from force of ancient habit, as well as 
from considerations not unconnected with the 
treasury, the children of Thespis still sheltered 
themselves under the wings of the great ones 
even of small places. In the old days, as Mr. 
William Archer says, and as we have learnt from 

49 E 


our friend Tate Wilkinson, the strolling manager 
"had to be obsequious to the County, sub- 
missive to the Garrison, conciliatory to the Civic 
powers ; " and for many years after this period 
of mere toleration had gone by, he found it 
desirable to invoke the special patronage of 
such " honourable personages " as the would-be 
fashionable would readily follow to his house. 
It was still, and long continued, customary for 
the manager to wait upon the influential people 
of the town and neighbourhood, and to invite 
them to select from the company's repertory 
such plays as they desired to be performed. In 
announcing the commencement of the season 
in 1822, the manager of the Wakefield Theatre, 
after regretting •' that the lateness of the York 
August Meeting should abridge his continuance 
in Wakefield to One Fortnight, ,, states that " he 
has not less than Forty Dramas, never performed 
here, to select from, so as to give Novelty to 
each Night." The " never performed here" 



must usually be taken cum grano ; indeed, 
Wilkinson relates an instance of a play being 
advertised, not in the capital of Ireland, as 
" not played here these five years, for the second 
time this season." But the forty dramas is no 
exaggeration, and in the extensive repertories of 
the old stock companies, and the advantages 
they offered as schools for actors (proof whereof 
will be found below), we have another contrast 
to the present nearly universal system, under 
which a young artist — not necessarily idle or 
unambitious— may have to play but a single 
part for months that sometimes grow into years. 
The piece, then, having been chosen, the patron 
or patrons attended on the night with their 
friends and following, and each of the former 
was furnished with a bill of the play printed on 
white satin — the quaint, old-fashioned play-bill, 
which, again, whether its big capitals were 
impressed on satin or paper, was a different 
thing from the advertisement-covered programme 

51 e 2 


of these days. From a number of Wakefield 
play-bills I have extracted the following 
examples of 'distinguished patronage* as 
interesting, and sometimes amusing by reason 
of the endeavour to make the play fit the 

"By desire of Lieut. Col. Tottenham and 
the Officers of the Royal Wakefield Volunteers, 
Their Majesties' Servants will perform the 
Comedy of John Bull, or an Englishman's 
Fireside" (this was in 1804, when Napoleon 
was expected). " By Desire of the Gentlemen 
forming the Committee of the Wakefield Dis- 
pensary" (1823). "Under the Patronage of 
the Members of the Gentlemen's Book Club " 
(1827). "By Desire, and under the immediate 
Patronage of the Ladies Patronesses and Gentle- 
men Stewards of the late Fancy Ball, the Play 
of The Stranger, if not otherwise commanded " 
(1828). "By Desire, and under the Patronage 
of the Stewards of the Assembly" (1836). 

5 2 


" By Desire, and under the Patronage of the 
Bachelors of Wakefield, Mrs. Inchbald's Comedy 
of To Marry or Not to Marry, with an Inter- 
lude called Popping the Question, and concluding 
with the Farce of A Handsome Husband" (1836). 
" By Desire, and under the Patronage of the 
Worshipful the Master, Officers, and Brethren 
of the Lodge of Unanimity of Free and 
Accepted Masons, Secrets Worth Knowing 11 
(1837). " Under the Patronage of the Ancient 
Order of Foresters, As you like it" (1840). 
" Under the Patronage of the Gentlemen of 
the Wakefield Regatta Club, The Mutiny at 
the Nore" (185 1). The following announce- 
ment, dated October, 1823, in which month 
the theatre was first lighted with gas, is suffi- 
ciently curious to be given here at length : — 

" By Desire of the Gentlemen of the Wakefield Gas 

Light Committee, this present Friday, Oct. 31st, 

will be revived Reynold's Comedy of 



After which a Serious Ballet of Action, written by 

Mr. Frimbley, entitled 


At the end of the Ballet Mr. Bywater will sing Jolly 

Dick the Gas Light Man. 

The whole to conclude with a new Farce (never 

performed here) called 


Or, Money Laid Out to Advantage." 

If on this occasion Commerce patronized Art, 
the latter evidently did her best to advertise 
Commerce in return. In order that the reper- 
tory of the company might contain no less than 
three pieces so well fitted to the inauguration 
of the gas-meter I suppose the manager of 1823 
must have been an adept at the minor art of 
* writing up.' This system of patronage, which 
Kean disliked so much, has now nearly died 
out; and people go to the theatre to see the 
acting, not because so-and-so has bespoken a 

It would appear that the relations between 
the playhouse and the public of provincial 



towns were formerly somewhat more intimate — 
perhaps personal would be a better word — than 
is now the case. It entered more into the life 
of the place. In November, 1827, the Wake- 
field paper announces that ' Mr. Calvert, of the 
TheaUe,' will explain the principles of elocution 
# in a course of five lectures : the first being 
delivered, by permission of the magistrates, in 
the Court House — a place where even now 
such an explanation would not be always super- 
fluous ; and in December, 1836, on the occasion 
of a benefit taken by a Miss Desborough (of 
whom more hereafter), it is advertised that " A 
Plan of the Theatre will be at Miss Desborough's 
Lodgings, at Miss Watkins's, Wood Street, 
where all Persons desirous of securing Places 
are requested to apply." The old custom for the 
actors to sell the tickets for their own benefits 
was undignified, but it shows the personal 
character of their popularity in small places. 
Nowadays the * benefit ' is almost as extinct as 



the ' bespeak.' But these friendly relations long 
continued, as is shown by the following adver- 
tisement, the first sentence of which unfortu- 
nately suffices to date it as belonging to com- 
paratively modern times : — 

"Theatre Royal, Wakefield. 
An unknown Speculator, who had undertaken the 
management of the Theatre, having absconded with the 
proceeds of the first week's business, the Season is 
abruptly closed, and a number of Performers thus thrown 
suddenly out of Engagements. Several parties sympathis- 
ing with the Company under such circumstances, and 
desirous of showing their kind feeling professionally, 

have been arranged, and will take place on Saturday and 
Monday Evenings, February 17th and 19th, 1855, on 
which occasions the Dramatic Amateurs of Wakefield, in 
conjunction with the remaining members of the estab- 
lishment, will appear, and solicit the support and 
patronage of their friends." 

Do amateurs now ever come to the rescue of 
the stranded ? 

Amongst the other differences between the 
earlier days of the Wakefield Theatre and the 



present time must be mentioned the hour at 
which the performance commenced. It is well 
known that our hours have been gradually 
getting later. In Pepys's time plays began at 
three o'clock, but for the greater part of the 
eighteenth century six o'clock was the usual 
time for drawing up the curtain. Towards the 
end of that century the hour advanced. In 
a mutilated playbill of Wilkinson's Company 
(probably at Wakefield Theatre) in "an Enter- 
tainment in three parts, called The Death of 
Captain Cook" the time of commencement 
is half-past six. There is no date, but Captain 
Cook was killed in 1779, and we might safely 
assume that this representation took place 
within a few years afterwards, even if Wilkin- 
son's name and the typography did not pretty 
well settle the question. In a Portsmouth 
playbill of 1791, printed in The Wandering 
Patentee, the performance begins "precisely 
at half-past six o'clock, on account of the 



variety of entertainments"; which seems to 
imply that half-past six was then earlier than 
usual. In 1804, at Wakefield, the performance 
began at a quarter to seven, and in 1805 at 
seven ; and this hour seems to have long con- 
tinued the customary one. Even in London, 
in 1 85 1, The Green Bushes at the Adelphi began 
at seven o'clock ; and in the same year the 
curtain at Wakefield was advertised to rise at 
the same hour. Exceptional occasions, of which 
we have records, only prove the rule. On the 
9th April, 1828, "on this occasion, by desire of 
many, who purpose visiting (/.*., the Wakefield 
Theatre) in Fancy Dresses previous to the open- 
ing of the Ball, the Performance will not com- 
mence till eight o'clock." The following evening, 
by the way, so enamoured do the * many ' seem 
to have become of themselves in fancy dresses, 
that the benefit of an actor named Bellamy was 
postponed in order that they might go again, 
" for the benefit of the Dispensary and House 



of Recovery." And on New Year's Day, 1846, 
when The Idiot Witness, followed by a Christ- 
mas Pantomime, was in the bill, the manager 
considerately announced that "in order that the 
Younger Branches may have an opportunity of 
witnessing the New Grand Pantomime without 
the necessity of their being kept from their rest 
to too late an hour, the performance will begin 
at 6.30 and terminate between nine and ten 
o'clock. Seven was, however, the usual time. 
Now-a-days, a glance * under the clock ' reveals 
much later hours. Out of nineteen London 
theatres open on the same night in May last, 
two began at 7.40 and one at 7.45. These are 
the earliest. Six began at eight, six between 
eight and half-past, and four at 8.30 ; and at six 
of them the ptice de resistance does not begin 
until 8.50 or nine o'clock. The present pro- 
vincial hours are no doubt earlier, but they tend 
in the same direction. 

Of course, there was a good deal more 



included in an average evening's entertainment 
in the old days than now ; for with the earlier 
beginning I find no evidence of an earlier 
ending, and there seems no doubt that the 
playgoer of the first half of the century gene- 
rally got very fair value, in point of quantity, 
for his money. The manager in 1847 informs 
"the Nobility, Gentry, and other Inhabitants 
of Wakefield and its Vicinity " that " the Per- 
formances on all occasions will be brought to a 
conclusion as shortly as possible after eleven 
o'clock," as if it would be reassuring to early 
people kept from visiting the theatre by the 
fear of even later hours. A good four hours' 
entertainment seems to have been the rule; as 
for to-day, I have more than one recent playbill 
in my possession whereon " Carriages at eleven " 
figures at the end of a programme that is not 
announced to commence until 8.30. A modern 
three-act play, taking but a little over two hours 
in actual representation, sometimes suffices for 



the whole bill. Of the variety — not to say 
incongruity — of the items comprised in the 
old-fashioned programme examples will be 
found below. 

The prices of admission to the Wakefield 
Theatre were originally: Boxes, 3s.; Pit, 2s.; 
and Gallery, is. We find them so stated in 
1804 and in 1836. Boxes and Pit on special 
occasions were raised to 4s. and 2s. 6d. respec- 
tively, and in 18 14 the management increased 
the ordinary prices. to these figures. The Pit 
was reduced to 2s. in 18 17. During the seasons 
of 1822-3-4-5 and 6 the prices continued at 4s., 
2s., and is., and these were still the ordinary 
prices in 1831. By 1846 the Gallery had 
become a sixpenny one, and in the fifties we 
find a greater variety of the better seats : ' Dress 
Boxes,' 2s. 6d. (sometimes 3s.) ; ' Side Boxes,' 
is. 6d. ; and * Stage Boxes,' 2s. 6d. The Pit 
was by that time only is., and the Gallery still 
sixpence. These prices were much the same 



as those with which Mr. Sherwood opened in 
1883, but which could not be maintained. The 
highest charges made for admission to the 
theatre of which I have found a record were 
those in October, 1821, on the occasion of a 
Concert : Boxes, 7s. ; Pit, 5s. ; Gallery, 2s, 6d. 
But the course of the regular theatrical prices, 
which alone here concern us, may be gathered 
from the notes given above. Sometimes season 
tickets were issued, enabling playgoers to visit 
the theatre at any time during the season for a 
lump sum. These are advertised in the forties, 
and again in i860, and, of course, are a part of 
the old stock company system of continuing 
many weeks in one place and changing the play 
every night, which obtained until the present 
one-play-one-town-a-week tour became the rule. 
The Wakefield Theatre during the eighteenth, 
century and up to 1823 regularly opened its 
doors towards the end of August or beginning 
of September for about three weeks. In the 



last-named year it was not announced to open 
until October 20th, and the season for some 
years thereafter runs into November. After the 
races were done away with there does not appear 
to have been any reason, other than old usage, 
for keeping to this time of the year, and we find 
the theatre sometimes open also in the Spring — 
for three weeks in February, 18 14, for instance, 
and during part of March, April, and May in 
1828. In May and June, 182 1, it was open for 
eight nights, the performances taking place every 
succeeding Thursday and Saturday "till the 
whole shall be completed." That it was not 
unusual to close for one or two nights a week is 
shown by the announcement in the Wakefield 
paper in August, 1806, "A Play every night 
next week," and that on September 2nd, 18 14, 
" On account of the shortness of the season the 
Theatre will be opened every evening." In 
1833-4 the season extends from November 18th 
to January 21st, and the theatre opened again 



February 4th to 29th, 1834; in 1836-7, from 
November 4th to January 6th, the Company 
only playing four nights a week. I have set out 
a list of the plays given during this season as 
showing the kind of dramatic fare provided for 
Wakefield playgoers more than half a century 
ago, and also the amount of work the old com- 
panies got through, and their value as training 
schools of dramatic art. As their decay is often 
justly lamented on this last ground, it may be 
interesting to revert for a moment to the Wake- 
field seasons of 1824 and 1825, when W. J. 
Hammond, afterwards a leading low comedian 
with Macready's Covent Garden Company, was 
serving his apprenticeship here. Between Octo- 
ber 25th and November 13th, 1824, Hammond 
sustained no fewer than 20 different characters 
at Wakefield, and in 1825, during a season of 
similar duration, 15 new ones, besides giving 
comic songs between the pieces. They were 
but small parts, some of them, though in the 



previous year, when he first appeared at 
Wakefield, he had played Acres, Trinculo, and 
Sir Andrew Aguecheek; but opportunities for 
gaining experience and discovering his true 
mitier were thus afforded to the young actor 
which are not now so easily obtained. 

Plays Performed at Wakefield Theatre during 

the Season of 1836-7. 

1836. Followed by 

Fri., Nov. 4 The Rivals .. Three Pair of Lovers. 

Sat, „ 5 The Gipsy Chief.. TheYoungWidow,and 

Captain Stevens. 
Mon., „ 7 The Iron Chest . . Two Strings to your 

Wed., „ 9 The Deformed . . Turn out. 
Fri., „ 11 The Dream at Sea The Invincibles. 
Sat., „ 12 Venice Preserved. Past Ten o'clock and 

a Rainy Night. 
Mon., ,, 14 The Defoimed 
Wed., „ 16 The Brigand 






18 The Stranger 

19 Henry IV. 
21 Hamlet . . 

The Spoiled Child. 
Is he Jealous? and 

The Miller's Maid. 
The Invincibles. 
The Dunder Family. 
A Dead Shot, 

23 The Dream at Sea Love and Laugh. 

25 King John .. High Life BelowStairs. 

65 F 


Sat., ,, 

Mon., ,, 

Wed., „ 

Fri., Dec. 
Sat., „ 

Mon., ,, 

l ues. , , , 

Thurs., „ 
Fri., „ 
Sat., „ 

Mon., ,, 
Tues., „ 

Thurs., „ 
oat») ,, 
Mon., „ 

Wed., „ 

Followed by 
26 The Way to Getl 

Married / The Vampire. 

28 My Poll and My\ Blue Devils, and The 

Partner Joe ../ Captain is not a Miss. 
30 My Poll and My\ Hunting a Turtle, and 

Partner Joe J The Irish Tutor. 

2 Ion . • . . Too Late for Dinner. 

3 Luke the Labourer The Invincibles, and 

The Unfinished Gen- 

5 (Dinner of Conservative Association. 

No Performance.) 

6 The Belle's Stra-) The Happiest Day in 

tagem ) My Life. 

8 Richard III. . . The Honest Thieves. 

9 Ivanhoe . . . . Catching an Heiress. 
10 The Wandering ^ The Innkeeper's Wife, 

Boys r and The Mutiny at 

J the Nore. 

12 Othello . . . . Where shall I Dine ? 

13 Speed the Plough The Dumb Man of the 


15 Eugene Aram . . 
17 Virginius 
19 The School for> 
Scandal / 

21 The Jewess 

The Wreck Ashore. 
Hunting a Turtle. 

The Widow's Victim. 
The Young Widow,and 
Nicholas Flam. 



Followed by 
Fri., „ 23 The Jewess .. Simpson & Co. 
Sat., ,, 24 (Christmas Eve. No Performance.) 
Mon., „ 26 To Marry or Not \ Popping the Question, 

to Marry r and A Handsome 

J Husband. 
Wed., „ 28 The Italian Wife.. The Married Rake,and 

Black Eyed Susan. 
Thurs., „ 29 Eugene Aram . . A Dead Shot. 
Sat, „ 31 George Barnwell.. The Dead Alive. 

Mon., Jan. 2 Secrets Worth \ 

Knowing / My Uncle John. 

Wed., „ 4 The Idiot Witness, Turning the Tables, 

and The Heart of 

a Soldier. 

Thurs., „ 5 The School fori The Illustrious 

Grown Children / Stranger 

Fri., „ 6 The Provoked \ 

(Last Night) Husband / Three Fingered Jack. 

The above list contains only the strictly 
dramatic part of the nightly programme, but it 
must be remembered that between the pieces 
was sandwiched a variety entertainment. For 
instance, after ' Luke the Labourer ; or the Lost 
Son? two ladies appear in " the celebrated 
La Sylphide, as danced by Madem. Taglioni, ,, 

67 F 2 


and Mr. Compton gives c< The Humours of an 
Election." The farce of The Invincibles follows, 
after which Mr. Compton sings another comic 
song and the two ladies again dance, before the 
second farce of The Unfinished Gentleman. 
After Virginiusy on December 17, and before 
the farce, comes an overture by Mozart, Miss 
Desborough sings " Buy a Broom " in character, 
Mr. Hunt executes " a grotesque Chinese dance,' 
and besides comic songs there is a violin solo 
"& la Paganini" by Mr. Bywater. Strange as 
these combinations seem to us, the naive addi- 
tion to the announcement in September, 1820, 
of Macbeth and Coriolanus — " In the course of 
the evening a Variety of Performances will be 
exhibited on the Slack Wire, Tight Rope, 
Flying Rope, &c." — is even more foreign to our 
ideas of artistic propriety. Such entertainments 
are now relegated to the * halls,' but the modern 
music hall only arose, I think, with the London 
Canterbury in the late fifties. 



Out of the regular season the theatre was 
used for occasional entertainments other than 
dramatic. That it was sometimes unoccupied 
for a considerable period may perhaps be in- 
ferred, not only from the absence of advertise- 
ments in the newspaper, but from such quaint 
announcements as that in January, 1812, "Care 
will be taken that the Theatre be well aired ; f> 
"The Theatre will be perfectly warm and 
accommodating by a powerful Stove," (in 
January, 18 17); and " Good Fires will be kept 
in the House Several Successive Days" (February, 
1823). A few instances of the non-theatrical 
nights may be given. On November, 15th, 1805, 

"The Public are respectfully informed that the 
Entertainments which gained such universal Approbation 
on Wednesday last will be again repeated this Evening. 
Particularly a Variety of curious and interesting Hydraulic 
Experiments, and Mr. Saxoni's celebrated Performance 
on the Tight Rope. To conclude with Artificial Fire- 

There is plenty of variety here, and one 



cannot altogether repress a certain curiosity as 
to the artificial fireworks. In September, 1810, 
is exhibited in the theatre a 

" Dioastrodoxon, or Grand Transparent Orrery, with 
all the splendid Scenery explanatory of the Seasons, 
Eclipses, Tides, and Comets, as exhibited in London and 
the University of Oxford, The whole forming the most 
perspicuous and comprehensive View of the works of the 
CREATOR in the United Kingdom." 

This must have been improving, and the 
show is advertised again in subsequent years ; 
probably it was a provincial tour of the " Orrery 
Lecturer at the Haymarket" mentioned by 
Charles Lamb. Ventriloquists, Wizards, and 
Phrenological demonstrators appear from time 
to time; and on the nth April, 1827, W. J. 
Hammond, the actor already referred to, gave a 
lecture in the theatre on "Peculiarities, 
Characters, Manners, and Sketches of Life, 
entitled, Trifles Light as Air." 

Curious expedients were sometimes resorted 
to in order to attract people to the house even 



during the regular theatrical seasons. On 
September 7, 1820, 

"The Entertainments will commence at Seven 
o'clock with the Ascension and Descension of a Grand 
and Magnificent Balloon, designed, painted, and 
splendidly decorated in exact Imitation of the One which 
took its Aerial Excursion from the Thuileries (sic) in 
Paris in honour of the ever memorable Victory of 
Waterloo ; during its Ascension and Descension from the 
back of the stage to the Gallery, the young American 
will perpendicularly exhibit himself on his Head ! ! 
Keeping Equilibrium during the whole of this unprece- 
dented Feat of Agile Exertion. Immediately after will 
be performed the favourite Comedy called A Roland for 
an Oliver. 

Upon an evening in April, 1828, the balloon 
plays a leading part in an unholy proceeding 
akin to a raffle, which is thus elaborately 
announced : — 

" Great Novelty ! A fine Pig to be given away ! 
Each person on going into the house will be presented 
with a ticket on which a number is inscribed. This 
ticket is to be preserved until the conclusion of the 
first piece. A Balloon will then ascend containing 



corresponding numbers to those given to the company, 
upon which they {sic) will fall upon the stage, one of the 
audience will then be selected, who, being blindfolded, 
will pick out a number, which being proclaimed, the 
holder of the same number will be entitled to the Pig ! " 

Amusing as I think some of these notices 
are, it is time to get back to matters more 
closely connected with the drama. A few of 
the more striking changes since the theatre was 
built I have tried to illustrate; others appear 
incidentally, but not less plainly, from what 



Time hath, my lord, a wallet at his back 
Wherein he puts alms for Oblivion. 

Troilus and Cressida. 

JT may be interesting, in resuming the 
chronicles of the Wakefield theatre 
from the time of Tate Wilkinson's 
death, to mention the names of some of the 
plays popular at the beginning of the nineteenth 
century. In 1804 we find, August 31st, Venice 
Preserved, Jaffier, Mr. Meggett ; Belvidera, Miss 
Fitzgerald; with Love Laughs at Locksmiths, 
Lydia, Miss Mills. September 1st, The Soldier's 
Daughter, written by Mr. Cherry. September 
3rd, Othello, Mr. Meggett in the name-part; 
Roderigo, Mr. Melvin; Emilia, Miss Smith; 
with Raising the Wind, Diddler, Mr. Melvin ; 



Sam, Mr. Knight. September 7th, Macbeth, 
with the Musical Farce of The Paragraph. 
September 8th, The Mountaineers, with the 
Pantomime of The Fairy. September 10th, 
The Wife of Two Husbands, with Love Laughs 
at Locksmiths. The Company then went to 
Pontefract for a week. September 17th, John 
Bull, Tom Shuffleton, Mr. Melvin; Dan, 
Mr. Knight ; Lady Caroline, Miss Smith ; with 
The Jew and the Doctor, Abednego, Melvin ; 
Old Bromley, Knight; Emily, Miss Smith. 
September 20th, The Will for the Deed; with 
The Highland Reel 

In 1805, September 2nd, Who wants a 
Guinea ? with Raising the Wind. September 
6th, Who wants a Guinea? with the Punto- 
mime of La Perouse, or the Desolate Island. 
September 7 th, The Wonder, or a Woman 
Keeps a Secret. September 9th, The Honey- 
moon. The Company again went to Pontefract, 
returning to Wakefield on the 16th for a further 



week, during which The School of Reform and 
The Shawl were performed. 

In 1806, August 29th, George Barnwell \ 
with Of Age To-Morrow ; September 30th, 
The School for Friends, with The Hunter of 
the Alps ; September 5th, Romeo and Juliet, 
with The Weathercock; September 8th, The 
School for Scandal, with the Pantomime of 
Provocation, or Spanish Ingratitude; Septem- 
ber 15th, The English Fleet (Trafalgar had 
been won the previous October), with The 
Young Quaker. 

As I do not in these pages emulate, even 
on a small scale, the Reverend John Genest, 
whose History of the English Stage, in ten 
volumes, is a wonderful piece of industrious 
compilation, I shall not attempt to set out 
all the material which can be obtained towards 
an exhaustive list of the plays given in the 
Wakefield Theatre, or of the people who 
played in them. For a good many seasons 



this material exists; but a note of the visits 
of stars, and an occasional selection from the 
repertories of the stock companies, as showing 
the rise of new plays and the continuance of 
old ones in the public favour, will probably be 
sufficient for all but the theatrical antiquary. 

In the season of 1807 Mr. and Mrs. Charles 
Kemble came to Wakefield for three nights. 
The plays were (September 2nd) The Wonder, 
Don Felix and Violante by the Kembles ; and 
The Prize, or 2, 5, j, 8, Caroline by Mrs. C. 
Kemble. On September 3rd they played Love- 
more and the Widow Belmour in Murphy's 
Comedy of The Way to Keep Him, which was 
followed by The Weathercock, Variella (with 
songs), Mrs. C. Kemble; and on September 
4th was given Kemble's play, The Point of 
Honour, in which he and his wife were cast 
for Durimel and Bertha; after which Mrs. C. 
Kemble and Mr. Wrench apeared in Persona- 
Hon, or Fairly Taken In y the evening 





concluding with High Life Below Stairs, Lovel 
and Mrs. Kitty, Mr. and Mrs. C Kemble- 
The bill states this to have been Charles 
Kemble's first appearance here; he made his 
first recorded appearance on any stage at 
Sheffield, not very far away, in 1792, being 
then but a boy, and in April, 1794, had 
appeared at Drury Lane. He excelled in old 
comedy parts. Wrench was an actor of con- 
siderable reputation, and was introduced to 
the London theatre-goers at the Lyceum in 
October, 1809, in The West Indian. 

In the same year at Wakefield (August 10th), 
Mr. Incledon, of the Theatre Royal, Covent 
Garden, appeared, and a week or two later Mr. 
Emery was playing here for three nights in 
The School of Reform, The Poor Gentleman, and 
The Miser. Emery was great in Yorkshire 
parts, such as Tyke, and is also remembered for 
his Caliban, and his Silence in Henry IV. 

In August, 181 1, Mrs. Jordan revisited the 



scene of her novitiate for four nights, appearing 
in The Pannell, A Trip to Scarborough, All 
in the Wrong, and Man and Wife. Incledon 
appeared again in January, 1812, combining his 
talents with those of the elder Mathews, in an 
entertainment, then very popular, consisting of 
anecdotes and songs. In May next year, Mr. 
Doran had the theatre, and one evening in that 
month Henry IV. was played for his benefit. 
In February, 18 14, Mr. Stanton took the theatre 
for three weeks, and announced the engagement 
of Mr. Betty, "his first appearance at Wakefield 
these seven years." William Henry West Betty, 
the quondam Infant Roscius, was the hero of 
one of the most extraordinary crazes in theatrical 
annals. Ten years earlier, a boy of thirteen or 
thereabouts, he had been the idol of London, 
a ' star ' before whom for the moment even the 
Siddons and John Kemble had to give way. 
But the furore did not last long; by 1807 his 
attraction waned in London, though he was still 



much run after in the provinces. It would 
appear from the above announcement that he 
had visited Wakefield about the last named 
year. In the summer of 1808, being no longer 
young enough for an infant phenomenon, he 
had retired, and entered Cambridge University, 
but he returned to the stage in 181 2. In his 
maturer years he seems to have been only a 
moderately good actor. During this Wakefield 
season of 18 14 he appeared as Barbarossa, Sir 
Edward Mortimer in The Iron Chesty Pizarro, 
Alexander the Great, Hamlet, and as Tristram 
Fickle in ' the entertainment ' of The Weather- 
cock. He lived until 1874, having finally quitted 
the stage fifty years before. 

Amongst the other plays performed this 
season were The Soldier's Daughter \ The Brazen 
Bust, Education, Who's to have her ? The Miller 
and his Men, Lovers' Quarrels, Macbeth, and 
the Burletta of Tom Thumb. 

The Theatre was opened again, September 



2nd to 25th, 1 8 14, during which season were 
given, amongst other pieces, Every one has his 
Fault, The Wandering Boys, Blue Devils, 
MacklhVs Man of the World (Sir Pertinax 
Macsycophant, Mr. Fitzgerald; Egerton, Mr. 
Mansel), Raising the Wind, The Jew, The 
Irishman in London, The School for Wives, 
Ways and Means, Henry V., The West Indian, 
and The Honeymoon. This was Fitzgerald's 
first season as manager. 

The 181 5 season opened on August 28th, 
when The Poor Gentleman, with the Musical 
Entertainment of Rosina, was given ' for the 
benefit of the Doorkeepers.' On August 29th, 
The West Indian, with No Song no Supper; 
September 1st, The Forest of Bondy, or the Dog 
of Montargis, with the original performing dog, 
"Dragon"; after which, Blue Devils, followed 
by a comic song, " The Duke of Wellington the 
Dandy 01" and concluding with the farce of 
The Liar. September 2nd, The Cure for the 



Heart Ache, with Sheridan's Comedy of The 
Critic ', or a Tragedy Rehearsed ; September 4th, 
George Barnwell, with The Woodmaris Hut ; 
September 8th, The Foundling of the Forest, 
with Inkle and Yarico ; September nth, 
Richard III, with Of Age To-morrow ; Sept- 
ember 14th, Romeo and Juliet, Miss Norton, 
of Covent Garden, as Juliet; September 15th, 
The Child of the Desert, with Fast Ten o'clock 
and a Rainy Night ; September 16th, The 
Renegade, with the Musical Entertainment, 
Brother and Sister; September 18th, Wild 
Oats, with The Forest of Bondy ; September 
19th, As you like it; and September 22nd, 
Policy, or Thus Runs the World away, Intrigue, 
and Brother and Sister. This was the last 
night, and Fitzgerald thus addressed the 
audience from the stage : — 

" Ladies and Gentlemen, Impressed with the most 
lively sentiments of gratitude, I appear before you to 
offer my acknowledgments for the handsome manner in 
which the Theatre has been supported throughout the 
season. A report has been industriously circulated that, 

81 G 


being displeased with the reception I met with, it was 
my intention to discontinue my visits to this town. I 
beg leave publicly to contradict the assertion, and to 
state to the inhabitants of Wakefield and its vicinity that 
if they are satisfied with my humble endeavours to 
contribute to their amusement I am perfectly contented 
with the encouragement I have received from them. I 
will not take up your time, Ladies and Gentlemen, by 
repeating those professions which experience only can 
prove to be sincere, but, for myself, and those by whom 
I have the honour to be supported, assure you that we 
look forward with an anxious pleasure to the period when 
we shall again have the honour to appear before you, 
and with the best wishes for your health and prosperity, 
most respectfully bid you farewell." 

'Anxious pleasure' is good. Incledon 
appeared at the Theatre again on the 22nd 
March, 1816, in a miscellaneous performance, 
and the usual season followed in the autumn, 
when Fitzgerald acted Tamerlane for his benefit, 
and amongst the other plays given were The 
Rivals, School for Scandal, The Man of the 
World, and George Barnwell. The following 
year, 181 7, Mr. Harley, of Drury Lane, 
appeared for six nights, commencing August 27, 



on which date was acted, for the benefit of Miss 
Cummins, already mentioned, Colman's Poor 
Gentleman, with the farce of Love, Law, and 
Physic, The Honeymoon, The Wonder, John 
Bull, The Belle's Stratagem, and Guy Mannering 
were also presented. I give below a copy of 
the play-bill on the benefit night of " Quick- 
silver " Harley, as he was called — 

And the last night of his Appearance. 

ttbeatre, HUafcetteld, 

On Thursday Evening, Sept. 4th, 181 7, 

Their Majesties' Servants will act a New Comedy, in 

Four Acts (never performed here), called 

The Touchstone. 

Paragon Mr. Harley. 

(As originally performed by him at the Theatre Royal, 

Drury Lane). 

Finesse Mr. Young 

Garnish Mr. Carter 

Circuit Mr. Humby 

Probe Mr. Foster 

Cropley Mr. Crisp 

James.. Mr. W. Remington 

Countryman . . Mr. Parsons 
Messenger .... Mr. Wood 
Mrs. Fairweather . . Miss 

Miss Becby..Mrs. Leonard 
Dinah Cropley. Mrs. Humby 
Postilions. . . .Messrs. Nichols and Adcock. 

83 G 2 


In the course of the Evening Mr. will introduce 

the following COMIC SONGS: 

Manager Strut and his Comical Family. 


or, Puns in Wailm Weather. 

" Waiter, bring another Bottle." 

And the POPULAR SONG, written expressly for 

him, from "Cry To-Day and Laugh To-Morrow," 

called — 

Veluti in Speculum ; or, The Stage and Green Room, 

In which he will introduce 1MITA TIONS 

Qi Mr. Fawcett, Mr. Kemble, Mr. Blanchard, 

Mr. De Camp, and Mr. Mathew's Exordium from 


After which (first Time here) a popular Petite Piece, 

in One Act, called — 


Mr. Belmour. .Mr. Carter 
Mrs.Belmour Mrs. Leonard 

Harriet .... Mrs. Stanley 
Rose Mrs. Humby 

An IRISH LILT, by Miss Green. 

To which will be added (the second Time here) 

the popular Farce of — 

Frighten'd to Death. 

Phantom Mr. Harley 

Carleton .... Mr. Carter 
Colonel Bluff. . 

Mr. Remington 
Sir Joshua Greybeard . . 

Mr. Foster 

Mumps (his Servant) . . 

Mr. Crisp 
Emily .... Miss Diddear 
Corinna. . . .Mrs. Leonard 
Patty Mrs. Humby 

8 4 


Doors to be opened at Six, and to begin precisely at 

Seven o'clock. 

Boxes, 4s.— Pit, 2s.— Gallery, is. Second Price, 

Boxes, 2s. — Pit, is. 

* # * Tickets and Places to be had of Mr. Hope, at the 

Theatre, from Eleven till One. 

By Desire of Mr. and Mrs. Wentworth, 
on Friday, Sept. 5th, 

Guy Mannering; and The Broken Sword. 

Fitzgerald died the following spring. The 
inscription on his tombstone in the churchyard 
at St. John's, Wakefield, is as follows : — 


Here lieth the mortal remains of R. J. Fitzgerald, 
Esq., late Manager of the theatres attached to the York 
circuit. He departed this life the 31st of May, 1818, in 
the forty-fifth Year of his Age. Monarchs, Sages, 
Peasants, most follow thee, and come to Dust." 

On the 26th August, 1818, the theatre 
opened under new management. 

" The melancholy and deeply to be lamented death 
of Mr. Fitzgerald having rendered it necessary for some 
one to undertake the conducting of the concern, Mr. 
Mansel is induced, from his friendship for the deceased, 



and his regard for Mr. Fitzgerald's Representatives, to 
forego his intention of retiring from the profession, and to 
devote his time to the arduous undertaking of managing 
the theatres during the remainder of the lease as the 
deputy of Mrs. and Miss Fitzgerald. He feels but too 
deeply the responsibility of the situation he is placed in, 
and candidly acknowledges his great inferiority to his 
predecessor. He dares not compare with him in any one 
thing — save his desire to please and his anxiety to do 
right. Mr. Mansel conceives it but fair and candid to 
state that his late friend, with all the enterprise and 
spirit which marked his character, embarked the whole 
of his property in the precarious and uncertain pursuit of 
profits to arise from a seven years' lease — his expenditure 
upon entering it was considerable — the times very 
unfavourable -and he was looking up to his exertions for 
the last three years of his term for remuneration. It was 
the divine will of Heaven that he should be deprived of 
that satisfaction. With the hope of still securing the 
advantages to the Widow and Orphan, Mr. Mansel, with 
all respect solicits the aid and approbation of those, who, 
perhaps, under other circumstances would be indifferent 
to the progress of the concern ; and he begs leave to 
assure them that nothing shall be wanting on his part 
(within his power) to render the theatre as attractive as 
possible ; and he will not entertain a doubt when the 
merits of the case are examined by the benevolent and 
the liberal, but that the event will be crowned with 
approval and success." 



Robert Mansel, like his predecessor Wilkin- 
son, had plunged into the perils of print. His 
work, published in 1814, was a contribution to 
the ancient and bootless controversy as to 
whether the drama be but a wile of that Personage 
who is reported to have himself once acted the 
part of a serpent with considerable success. 
Wilkinson had occasionally descended into this 
arena, and broken a lance with the Prynnes of 
his day ; but if his literary efforts had consisted 
wholly of such passages at arms (as ManseFs 
book does) they would hardly possess the 
interest they have at the present day. Another 
fact about Mansel worth mentioning is that he 
appears to have been a member of the company 
in which W. C. Macready made his first 
appearance at Birmingham in 18 10. The 
Wakefield and Halifax Journal thus speaks of 
his first season of management : — 

" The Theatre at Wakefield opened on Wednesday 
under the management of Mr. Mansel, who appears 



determined to tread in the spirited and liberal steps of his 
lamented friend and predecessor. The changes that have 
taken place in the dramatis persona {sic) as far as we have 
yet been able to judge have not been for the worse. The 
aggregate of talent as well as numbers appears indis- 
putably to be augmented, even in the regular corps ; but 
whilst Mrs. Garrick remains amongst them a treat is 
offered to the lovers of the drama not easily to be 
exceeded, but especially to those who are 'moved by 
the concert {sic) of sweet sounds.' If displays of 
activity delight any, Mr. Wilson certainly offers to them 
a gratification no other is able to bestow, as he is con- 
fessedly esteemed the first performer on the rope now in 

This Mrs. Garrick played Rosina in the 
" musical farce " of that name, Carline in The 
Young Hussar and Ophelia. Other plays 
performed this year were Much Ado about 
Nothing, for Mansel's benefit; Adelgitha, The 
Rivals, The Innkeeper's Daughter, Pizarro, The 
Ravens, or the Force of Conscience, The Conquest 
of Torento, or the Fail of Tunis, Bellamira, and 
amongst the after-pieces, The Day after the 
Wedding y Of Age To-morrow, Raising the Wind 



and X. Y.Z. Whether the " first performer on 
the rope in Europe " wheeled a barrow from the 
stage up to the gallery between the acts of 
Hamlet I am not aware, but this feat is adver- 
tised during the season. 

And now (1819) comes the appearance at 
the Wakefield Theatre of " the greatest genius 
that our stage has ever seen " — Edmund Kean. 
" In Shylock," says Mr. Henry Irving, comparing 
Kean with Garrick and John Kemble, "in 
Richard, in Iago, and, above all, in Othello, it 
may be doubted whether Edmund Kean ever 
had an equal." Richard and Othello were the 
two characters in which he appeared at Wakefield 
on the 1 6th and 17th July. It was his 
representation of the former that occasioned 
Coleridge's well-known saying that to see Kean 
act was like reading Shakespeare by flashes of 
lightning; and Hazlitt considered his Othello 
to be the finest piece of acting ever exhibited. 
The Wakefield playgoers therefore had an 



opportunity of seeing the " great little man " in 
two of his best parts, and at a period when he 
was himself at his best ; but, for some reason or 
other, the theatre was not, says the paper, " so 
full as we anticipated, particularly on the second 

In the autumn the Wakefield Theatre was 
the scene of the "first appearance on any 
public stage" of Miss Bakewell, a young lady 
who was a native of the town. Mr. Henry 
Clarkson says, in his pleasant Memories of 
Merry Wakefield, that she was pretty, as 
young ladies (especially in memories) are apt 
to be, and in this he is corroborated by con- 
temporary records. She chose for her dibut 
(August 23rd) Belvidera in Venice Preserved, 
and between that date and September 3rd she 
played lead in four other tragedies — Mrs. Haller 
in The Stranger, Mrs. Beverley in The Gamester, 
Isabella in The Fatal Marriage, and Evadne in 
Shiel' s drama of that name. The latter had 



but lately been produced with Miss O'Neill* in 
the title role — an actress of much charm and 
pathos, in whose footsteps, it is said, Miss Bake- 
well aspired to tread. It is unfortunate that 
there remains no more critical account of the 
artistic result of a brave beginning than the 
notices which appeared in the Wakefield paper. 
These are confessedly from the pen of a personal 
friend, who says a great many nice things, in- 
forming us that in Miss Bakewell, "dignity, 
innocence, and beauty are sweetly blended 
together ,*' and expressing an earnest desire 
that the most fragile of these qualities might 
be long preserved. He adds, however, that 
" a new star has arisen in the histrionic firma- 
ment, shedding at its first rise a peculiarly 
pleasing lustre, and , . . when it shall have 

* Mr. Clarkson says, "I perfectly recollect seeing 
lovely Miss O'Neill — afterwards Lady Becher — as Juliet 
on our Wakefield Boards ; " and I am sorry I have not 
come across the record of her appearance. She had 
retired from the stage on July 13th, 1819. 



advanced to its meridian height it will be found 
to be a star of the first magnitude;" from 
which metaphor we may no doubt infer (what, 
indeed, we should have suspected without it) 
that Miss BakewelTs talents were rather unde- 
veloped. The first appearance of a novice in 
parts already appropriated by more than one 
actress of the first rank seems to afford another 
contrast to our own day, when it is admitted 
that, however naturally gifted an aspirant may 
be, there is a technique in acting, as in every 
other form of artistic expression, only to be 
acquired by study and the endurance of more 
or less drudgery. I incline, however, to the 
opinion that this was an exceptional occasion 
even in 1819. But the theatre was filled with 
a friendly audience, and Mr. Mansel, the 
manager, who acted with the debutante, had 
little reason to complain of the business. The 
star, it is said, did not remain in the * histrionic 
firmament' many years. Perhaps, like Miss 



O'Neill, it was ultimately extinguished by 

In 1820 James Wallack was at Wakefield 
for four nights, playing (August 30th) Rolla in 
Pizarro, (September 1st and 2nd) Macbeth and 
Coriolanus. He was a noted Shakespearean actor 
in his day, and afterwards went to America. 
Mr. Bancroft, in the entertaining book which 
contains the reminiscences of himself and his 
wife, writes that when he was at New York, in 
1858, he had "the rare treat of seeing James 
Wallack — then a lame and crippled old man, 
but still very handsome — act as Don Caesar de 
Bazan; also in Douglas Jerrold's Rent Day, 
and Shylock in a production of The Merchant 
of Venice? On the 4th September Miss Bake- 
well re-appeared for three nights as Juliet, and 
on the nth Wallack acted Brutus in The Fall 
of Tarquin for his benefit. The lady's benefit 
was on the 8th, when, says The Wakefield and 
Halifax Journal : — 



" Our theatre presented one of the most numerous 
and brilliant audiences ever witnessed in it Among the 
strangers we distinguished the Countess of Mexbro', 
Lady Pollington, Mr. and Lady £. Smyth, Lady Smith, 
Mrs. Beaumont and family, Mr. and Mrs. Wentworth 
and family, Mrs. Lee and family, Major and Mrs. 
Crowther, Mrs. Dodsworth, Sir Wm. Pilkington, Col. 
Smith, Miss Smith, Messrs. Stanhope, Beckett, &c, &c" 

This "list of visitors " at least shows, that 
whatever may be the case with prophets, an 
actress, young, pretty, and somewhat inexpe- 
rienced, is not without honour even in her own 

On May 19th, 182 1, Mr. De Camp, "having 
formed an arrangement with Mrs. Fitzgerald for 
the remainder of her Lease," opened the theatre 
"with the conjoint Talent of the York and 
Newcastle-upon-Tyne Companies." 

Mansel, of whose mastery of English I have 
already furnished one illustration, heralds the 
opening of the 182 1 autumn season with another 
manifesto, in which, as he modestly puts it, " he 



is happy to say he has it in his power to present 
a Company of Ladies and Gentlemen possessing 
a considerable portion of Talent and Respecta- 
bility." He proceeds to offer the following 
inducement : — 

" Mr. Mansel, having on his first Night of Manage- 
ment issued Eleven Hundred Free Admissions for the 
York Theatre, and not wishing to be thought improperly 
impartial to one Town more than another, announces 
that it is his intention to distribute Seven Hundred on 
the FIRST NIGHT of opening the Theatre at Wakefield* 
which will be on Thursday, August 30th, 1821, when 
will be presented the Musical Play of Guy Mannering, 
and the Farce of Raising the Wind." 

The names of the ladies and gentlemen who 
possess the considerable portion of talent and 
respectability follow, and I give them as showing 
the extent of the Company : — Messrs. Calvert, 
Wilders, Prichard, Williams, Yarnold, Downe, 
Hammond, Rayner, Kelly, Andrews, Elston, 
Bland, Smith, Webster, Morelli, W. Remington, 
By water, Dumbleton ; Mesdames Weston, Hume, 



Lennard, Parley, Rayner, Andrews, Webster, 
French; Misses Chester, Johnson, Hague, 
Scruton, Green ; Treasurer, Mr. Hope (* a good 
name,' as Touchstone says) ; Prompter, Mr. 
Remington ; Leader of the Band, Mr. Jackson ; 
Scene Painter, Mr. Willis; Head Carpenter, 
Mr. Bailes ; Dress Makers, Mr. Ward and Miss 
Bearpark. " N.B. — The Theatre is new painted 
and decorated." 

Mathews, the entertainer, visited the theatre 
again in October, after the theatrical season. 

In May, 1822, the theatre opened for two 
nights with " A Pageant of the Coronation of 
His Majesty George the Fourth," which had 
taken place the year before. il The attempt 
in this Representation," runs the advertisement, 
"is, as far as Stage Limits will allow, to present 
a faithful Delineation of the various local 
Paraphernalia and Decorations beheld on that 
occasion." There were four scenes. First, 
" The Royal Procession, passing from the Hall 




to the Abbey." Second, " The Interior of 
Westminster Abbey, Galleries fitted up for the 
Reception of Foreign Princes, Ambassadors, 
and their Ladies. The Crown, the Altar, Throne 
of Homage, Coronation Chair of St. Edward, 
Regalia, &c, &c." Third, " Birdcage Walk in 
St. James' Park, with Introductory Dialogue 
interspersed with Songs." And fourth, " Interior 
of Westminster Hall, prepared for the Royal 
Banquet. In the course of the scene, the 
Grand Entree of the King's Champion, in 
complete Armour, mounted on a real Charger, 
richly caparisoned. The Ceremony of giving 
the Challenge and receiving the Gold Cup from 
the King." Elliston had appeared at Drury 
Lane in a pageant of this kind. 

The usual season in the autumn followed 
(August 29th to September 14th). The plays 
given (omitting the minor pieces) were The 
Castle of Andalusia^ Mary Stuart, Mirandola, 
Colman's Law of Java, Virginius, The Pirate, 

97 H 


The Illustrious Travellers, Jam Short, Wallace, 
The Suspicious Husband* The Jealous Wife, 
Othello, and The Marriage of Figaro. 

The following year (1823) the theatre did 
not open for the regular season until October 
20th. On this date W. J. Hammond, "from 
the Theatre Royal, Haymarket," made "his 
first appearance" at Wakefield, playing Bob 
Acres. He afterwards made a great hit as Sam 
Weller at the Strand, and joined Macready at 
Covent Garden in 1837. A few days later, on 
the 27th October, was performed, u under the 
Patronage of Godfrey Wentworth Wentworth, 
Esq., and Mrs. Wentworth, George Heriot, or 
the Fortunes of Nigel, with the farce of Catharine 
and Petruchio," a somewhat curious arrange- 
ment of the respective works of Walter Scott 
and William Shakespeare; and on the 30th, 
Twelfth Night, announced as " not acted here 
these forty years." 

On the 1 6th October, 1824, Robert Mansel 



died on the road to London, whither he was 
proceeding on business. On the 22nd the fol- 
lowing appeared in the Journal: — 

"The Nobility, Gentry, and Public of Wakefield 
and the Vicinity are most respectfully informed that their 
late worthy and deeply regretted Manager, Mr. Mansel, 
having made every arrangement for the period of his 
intended absence, the Business of the Theatre will be 
resumed on Monday next, October 25th, 1824, when it 
is humbly hoped that the Ladies and Gentlemen of the 
Establishment, in addition to their irreparable loss, may 
not experience any diminution of that Public Patronage 
and Support which has ever been their most anxious 
wish to acquire, and under the present melancholy cir- 
cumstances will be their only consolation to preserve." 

The season ended November 13th. In 1825 
the Wakefield stage was occupied for a night or 
two by amateurs, by leave of Messrs. Downe 
and Faulkner, the successors of Mansel in the 
management. They played The Castle Spectre^ 
by M. G. Lewis, and, by way of a change from 
the supernatural, The Rivals. The following 
spring the members of the Shakespeare Society 
gave two performances for the benefit of the 

99 H 2 


Dispensary, choosing to appear, not as one 
would have supposed, in Bam let, but in John 
Bull and The Iron Chest, both by George 
Colman the younger. This surely is a remark- 
able and praiseworthy instance of reverence for 
the bard. The theatre opened as usual October 
30th, 1826, until the middle of November, during 
which time some fifteen dramas were played, 
besides farces. Amongst them were the lugu- 
brious George Barnwell, Romeo and Juliet, The 
School for Scandal, The Talisman, Paul Pry 
(twice), The Pilot (twice), The Hypocrite 
(descended indirectly from Tartuffe), the well- 
worn Isabella, John Bull, Douglas, and The 
Innkeeper's Daughter. 

On the 2nd June, 1827, Miss Maria Foote, 
of the Theatre Royal, Covent Garden, who 
married the Earl of Harrington four years 
later, appeared at Wakefield for one night in 
The Bellas Stratagem. The bill on this occasion 
is an interesting one : — 



Gbeatre, TOakeffelfc. 


MR. DOWNE, anxious to provide every Novelty in his 
power for the amusement of his Patrons and Friends, has 
the gratification of announcing 


Of the Theatre Royal, Covent Garden, 

Whom he has engaged FOR ONE NIGHT ONLY, 
her previous arrangements precluding the possibility of 
her remaining any longer in this County. 

On SATURDAY EVENING, June 2nd, 1827, 
Will be performed the Comedy of the 

Doricourt, Mr. Heild (From the Theatre Royal, Bristol, 

his first appearance). 

Hardy, Mr. Downe. Sir G. Touchwood, Mr. Calvert. 

Flutter. . . .Mr. W. J. Hammond. 

Saville . . Mr. Phelps. Villers . . Mr. Webster. 

Courtall Mr. Selby (His first appearance here). 

First Gentleman.... Mr. Dearlove. 

Second Gentleman Mr. Hamilton. 

Mountebank Mr. W. Remington. 

Letitia Hardy Miss Foote. 



" Where are you going, my Pretty Maid ? n 



And in the Masquerade Scene she will introduce the very 

favourite New Song of 


Mrs. Racket.. Miss Pklham (From the Theatre Royal* 

Lady Frances. . . .Miss Seymour. 
Miss Ogle. Mrs. Andrews. Kitty Willis, Mrs. Webster. 
Ladies. . . .Mesdames Bedford, Webster, &c 


Of Age To-Morrow. 

Frederick Baron Willinghurst, Mr. W. J. Hammond. 

Baron Piffleberg, Mr. Kelly. HansMolkus, Mr. Downe. 

Friz. . . .Mr. W. Remington. 

Maria Miss Foote. 



And introduce a 


Written and arranged expressly for her. 

Lady Brumback Mrs. Macnamara. 

Sophia Miss Seymour. 

Places for the Boxes may be taken at Mr. NICHOLS', 


Doors to open at Six o'Clock, and to commence at Seven. 
Tickets — Boxes, 4s. ; Pit, 2s. ; Gallery, is. 




Before the opening of the theatre in October, 
Mr. Faulkner appears to have died, leaving 
Downe sole manager. We find again a notable 
name in the caste of Jane Shore, given the first 
night, October 29th — Belmour, Mr. Phelps, 
"from the Theatre Royal, Brighton. ,, Shake- 
speare is better represented amongst the plays 
this season, Romeo, Macbeth, The Merchant of 
Venice, and " the afterpiece " of Catherine and 
Petruchio all appearing in the list, with The 
Rivals, The Wonder, The School for Grown 
Children, George Barnwell, and Paul Pry 
again, Bombastes Furioso, The Devil among 
the Doctors, and Morton's Speed the Plough, 
in which play, it will be remembered, that 
mysterious and influential lady, Mrs. Grundy, 
was first alluded to. 

Towards the end of March, 1828, Downe 
"kindly lent" (the advertisement says) the 
theatre to Mr. Neville, " formerly of the York 
Company," and he brought down Mrs. Glover, 



Miss M. Glover, and W. J. Hammond. This 
celebrated actress played Mrs. Oakley in The 
Jealous Wife (March 25th), Violante in The 
Wonder to Hammond's Lissardo (28th), and 
Mrs. Malaprop in The Rivals, Hammond, of 
course, being Acres, and Miss Glover, Lydia 
(29th). Then we have, during April and May, 
the old, old story of Romeo and Juliet again, 
The Slavey Bertram, High Life below Stairs, 
A New Way to Pay Old Debts; "that moral 
and instructive lesson," as the bill styles it, 
Thirty Years of a Gambler's Life, Gil Bias, 
Faustus, William Tell, and others. 

In September the theatre was opened for a 
fortnight by Mr. Cummins, who made a speech 
on the last night, in which " he hoped it might 
be the commencement of a long and, he trusted, 
prosperous season of unremitting efforts on his 
part and a continuance on theirs of that liberal 
support," &c, &c. During the twelve nights' 
season twenty-four pieces and after-pieces and a 



concert had been given. They included Wild 
Oats, The Dramatist, The Way to get Married, 
The Siege of Belgrade, The Road to Ruin, Othello, 
Macbeth, Rob Roy, The Two Friends, The 
Steward, and amongst the farces, The Rencontre, 
2 j, John Street, Adelphi, and such old friends 
as The Weathercock, Love Law and Physic, 
and Raising the Wind. The following autumn 
(1829) Cummins let the Theatre to Mr. Butler, 
"of the Theatre, Sheffield," who opened on 
Monday, September 21st, with the old play of 
Venice Preserved, the part of Belvidera by Miss 
Smithson, "from the Theatre Royal, Covent 
Garden, and the Theatre Anglaise, Paris." This 
was "la belle Henriette" Smithson, who, with 
Liston, Charles Kemble, Macready, and others, 
had two years previously appeared in the French 
capital, and captivated the Parisians. There 
she had inspired the youthful Berlioz with that 
romantic passion which resulted in at least one 
symphony and one attempt at suicide. In 1833 



she was again in Paris, heard the symphony, 
and was introduced to the composer, who was 
not personally known to her, though she had 
received from him during her previous visit 
divers ardent communications. They were in a 
short time duly married, and he was as unhappy 
ever afterwards as genius, at least, usually is 
under the circumstances, whilst she inspired, at 
any rate, no more symphonies. However, 
revenons & nos moutons. On the 22 nd Sep- 
tember, 1829, Miss Smithson played Juliet, and 
Catherine in Catherine and Petruchio ; on the 
23rd, Imogene in Bertram, and Sophia in The 
Rendezvous ; on the 24th, Mrs. Haller in The 
Stranger, and Lady Freelove in The Day after 
the Wedding ; on the 25 th, the name-part in 
Jane Shore, Portia in the fourth act of The 
Merchant of Venice, and Sophia again ; and on 
the 26th, Violante in The Wonder, and Ella in 
Ella Rosenberg — a good week's work. 

Calvert, still with the company, repeated his 



lectures on elocution during the season. In 
October an infant phenomenon called Master 
Burke played Richard III, and led the orchestra 
in the overture. This precocious youth some- 
times played in three pieces in one evening. In 
November Butler engaged Madame Vestris for 
two nights, "the first of which will be on 
Friday, November 13th, 1829, when will be 
acted the new Musical Comedy of The Rencontre, 
the part of Justine by Madame Vestris . . . After 
which a farce called All at Coventry. The whole 
to conclude with the admired Burletta of 
Midas. Apollo, Madame Vestris. On Saturday, 
November 14th, A New Drama (never acted 
here) written expressly for the display of Madame 
Vestris's extraordinary talents, called Sublime 
and Beautiful, Charlotte, Madame Vestris. 
After which a new comic Interlude called A 
Dead Shot To conclude with the popular 
Farce of The One Hundred Pound Note. Miss 
Arlington, Madame Vestris, as originally 



performed by her at the Theatre Royal, Covent 
Garden, and in which she introduces her 
original and popular song of Buy a Broom, 
in the costume of an Itinerant Bavarian Female. 
In consequence of the demand for places two 
rows of seats from the pit will be added to the 

A " laughable interlude" called The Married 
Bachelor appears to have been substituted on 
this occasion for The Dead Shot, and to have 
greatly shocked the local critic. " The eternal 
repetition," he says, "of oscular salutations 
going forward upon the stage was, we know, 
not a little offensive to the more cultivated 
and modest part of the audience." Kissing — 
as a spectacle — is without doubt a somewhat 
unsatisfactory entertainment. 

On the 1 6th November, Miss Bartolozzi, 
Madame Vestris's sister, played in John of 
Paris, and between the pieces Butler delivered 
'a defence of the acted drama.' On the 25th 




January, 1830, Sheridan Knowles, the dramatist, 
began a course of lectures on Belles Lettres 
at the Music Saloon ; this may perhaps be men- 
tioned, though strictly it concerns not the theatre. 
The latter opened again in March, during 
which month Mr. Wood, " Principal Vocalist at 
the Theatre Royal, Covent Garden," appeared 
in opera — The Quaker, Love in a Village, and 
The DeviPs Bridge — and the usual stock dramas 
were played. In August, Madame Vestris re- 
turned for one night, acting Phoebe in Paul Pry 
and Kate O'Brien in the farce of Perfection; 
and on September 18th, Rayner and Calvert 
gave their entertainment, including imitations 
of Kean, Young, and Kemble. W. J. Hammond 
had now assumed the management, and he 
continued to have it for a year or two. On 
January 25th, 1831, Edmund Kean appeared 
as Shylock — the character in which he had 
made his dibut at Drury Lane but one day 
short of seventeen years before, and to which, 



it will be remembered, he was the first actor to 
give a touch of pathos. At this time — only a 
little more than two years before his death — 
Kean was not what he had been ; and the local 
newspaper gentleman, in a notice alluding to 
his previous visit to Wakefield, is shocked — 
this time with reason —at the lamentable and 
premature decay of the tragedian's powers. 
A copy of the playbill on this interesting even- 
ing is given here : — 

Cbeatte, TOahefiel fr, 


Respectfully informs the Public that he has concluded an 

Engagement with the celebrated tragedian, 

Mr. KEAN, 

For One Night only, which will commence on the 

termination of his Engagement in Leeds, where he is 

now performing this present Week. 

On TUESDAY, JANUARY 25th, 1831, 



Shylock Mr. Kean. 

Duke of Venice Mr. Dearlove. 



Bassanio. . . .(His first appearance here). .Mr. Kbppbll. 

Antonio. . . .Mr. Webster 

(His first appearance here these three years). 

Gratiano. .(His first appearance) .. Mr. Melville. 

Lorenzo .... Mr. Jerrold. Launcelot . . Mr. Slaiter. 

Tubal Mr. Andrews. 

Salanio . . Mr. Jones. Old Gobbo . . Mr. Smith. 

Portia. . . . Miss Penley. 

Nerissa .... Miss Angell Jessica .... Miss Me ars. 

The Performance to conclude with a Laughable Farce, 


fortune's ffrolic* 

Old Smocks Mr. Webster. 

Franks .... Mr. Dearlove. Rattle .... Mr. Melville. 

Clown . . Mr. Jerrold. Countryman . . Mr. Cullen. 

Servant, Mr. Smith. Robin Roughhead, Mr. Slaiter. 

Miss Nancy . . Miss Mears. Dolly . . Miss Angell. 

Margery. . . .Mrs. Macnamara. 

* # * Notwithstanding the heavy expense attending this 


no alteration will be made in the prices. 

Boxes, 4s. ; Pit, 2s. ; Gallery, is. Second Price :— - 

Boxes, 2s. ; Pit, is. 

(S* Places to be had of Mr. Nichols, Bookseller. 

Doors to open at Six, and the Performance to com- 
mence at Seven. 

The Theatre will be well Aired. 




The autumn season began October 17th. 
Upon two evenings the elder Mathews gave his 
entertainments — on the 22nd his " Comic 
Annual? and on the 26th his "Sketch Book 
for i8jo, with humorous Cuts and other embel- 
lishments, Published this day (Boards) Wake- 
field (Packed in Boxes) Four Shillings." The 
humour of this seems to-day a little laboured, for, 
though Mr. Mathews's Sketches were ' published* 
on the boards of the theatre, it was the audience 
who (I hope) were packed in the boxes. On 
the 24th October there was another Coronation 
Pageant, this time of William IV. and Queen 
Adelaide. In May, 1832, Mr. and Mrs. Wood, 
of the Theatres Royal, Drury Lane and Covent 
Garden, appeared for three nights in opera. 
They played Hawthorn and Rosetta in Love in 
a Village, and Tom Tug and Wilhelmina in 
The Waterman, May nth; Masaniello and 
Elvira in Masaniello, and Steady (one of Incle- 
don's parts) and Gillian in The Quaker, 



May 1 2th ; and Francis Osbaldiston and Diana 
Vernon in Rob Roy, with The Quaker again, 
on the 15th. Mr. Wood afterwards built and 
resided at Woolley Moor House, near Wakefield, 

The following September Mr. Yates, "part 
proprietor of The Theatre Royal, Adelphi, with 
Mr. Mathews,"appeared for one night only, giving 
imitations of Young as Hamlet, Kean as Richard, 
Munden as Polonius, Macready as Virginius, 
Braham as Prince Orlando, and of Messrs. Yates 
and Mathews as themselves. 

Hammond was succeeded as manager in 
1833 by Mr. Read, who opened at Wakefield 
on the 1 8th November. Braham appeared in 
the opera of Guy Mannering on December 14th, 
and the house was open continuously until 
January 21st, 1834. The usual stock dramas 
were given — The Iron Chest, Eugene Aram, 
Zembuca, The Hunchback, The Stranger, &c. — 
and a Vocal and Instrumental Concert just 
before Christmas ; but the fact that towards the 

113 1 


end of the season "half-price nights" were 
occasionally advertised, seems to show that 
business was bad. And when the theatre 
re-opened, early in February, " half-price every 
night from commencement until further 
notice," appeared upon the bills. They finished 
the season, February 27th, with " a grand 
Masquerade and Fancy Ball" after the play, 
when it was announced that "those who 
purchase Box tickets will be entitled to join 
in the Masquerade " ; and the theatre was open 
for three nights in May, when a young lady 
named Fanny Edwin, "twelve years of age," 
played Richard III. and Bombastes Furioso ! 

Such were the entertainments provided at 
the Wakefield Theatre in the days when, as old 
people tell us, the carriages of " the Nobility 
and Gentry" extended from its doors in 
unbroken line to the bottom of Westgate. It 
now only remains to continue these notes down 
to our own time. 




The third day comes a frost — a killing frost. 

Henry VIII. 

50UGHLY speaking, the beginning of the 
reign of our present Sovereign marks 
the rise of a new movement in English 
stagecraft. In 1837 Macready 'commenced 
manager ' at Covent Garden, and began to give 
that attention to the minute details of theatrical 
representation, to the completeness and vrai- 
semblance of a play as an artistic whole, which 
has culminated in our day in the unequalled 
stage management of such men as Mr. Irving and 
Mr. Hare. In the natural course of things it 
would be long before this movement, not very 
pronounced, perhaps, at the start, even in 

115 1 2 


London, affected the less important provincial 
theatres ; but the period seems a convenient 
one at which to begin our last section, especially 
as about this time the Wakefield Theatre opened 
under a new manager, Mr. Joseph Smedley, 
who, as already mentioned, purchased the 
property himself a few years later. 

Apropos of Macready, Dr. Wright, whose 
knowledge of Wakefield goes back more than 
sixty years, writes me " I feel almost certain that 
I once saw Macready on the Wakefield stage, 
though I cannot find mention of it in my diary • 
and I think he played Mr. Beverley in The 

Mr. Smedley, manager of the Theatres, 
Beverley, Pontefract, Gainsboro', &c, opened 
at Wakefield, November ioth, 1835. Like a 
good many other people connected with the 
stage, he was, I have heard, originally occupied 
with the somewhat less fascinating pursuit of 
the law. I suppose, as he married an actress, 



love had turned him into an actor, even as it 
made a painter of the Antwerp blacksmith. He 
had two sons and two daughters in the profession 
— all of them in his company ; and their names 
constantly appear in the Wakefield playbills 
from 1835 to 1 84 1. He seems to have had a 
good opinion of the dignity of dramatic art, and 
the bills under his administration begin with 
solemn little essays about it. 

That for instance, of the 23rd 'November, 
1836, reads as follows : — 

" The business of plays is to discountenance vice and 
commend virtue, to shew the uncertainty of human great- 
ness, the sudden turns of fate, and the unhappy conclusions 
of violence and injustice ; it is to expose the singularities 
of pride and fancy, to make folly and falsehood con- 
temptible, to bring hypocrisy and everything that is ill 
under infamy and neglect. The wit of man cannot invent 
anything more conducive to virtue and destructive to vice 
than the drama."* 

Another bill (November 2nd, 1840) presents 

* This is a quotation from Jeremy Collier -a hostile witness, and 
proportionately effective. 



us with the following information, in front of the 
caste of a drama so conducive to virtue as The 

"There is not perhaps within the range of social 
amusements one more worthy of our intellectual powers 
than this: and certainly none more replete with great 
variety, or endowed with more fascinating charms. The 
Theatre is the Temple of Arts, and in no place is their 
influence more deeply felt. All civilized communities 
have invariably been anxious to promote the welfare of 
the National Theatres, and precisely at those periods 
when refinement has been carried to the highest pitch has 
this solicitude most generally prevailed. At the very 
orgin of its institution, the sages of Greece were found 
among the promoters of Theatricals : and with very few 
exceptions, the greatest and wisest men of all countries 
have from chat time to the present been patrons. And 
surely, none but those who would deny us amusements of 
every kind, and indiscriminately denounce any enjoyments 
(however lawful or innocent) could prohibit a recreation 
like this, which gives so wide a scope for the exercise and 
display of the highest faculties of the mind, and which at 
the same time presents so rich a combination of intellectual 

To con these sentences between the acts 
could not but have been grateful and comforting 



to the audience, and calculated to allay the 
qualms of the weaker brethren amongst them. 
Sometimes the manager waxes metaphorical, 
as thus — prefixed to the bill of 28th November, 

"The Perpetual Comedy. 

The World is the Stage — Men are the Performers — 
Chance composes the Piece — Fortune distributes the 
Parts — The Fools shift the Scenery — The Rich occupy 
the Boxes — The Powerful have their seat in the Pit, 
and the Poor sit in the Gallery — The Fair Sex present 
the Refreshments — The Trusty occupy the Treasury 
Benches (!) and those forsaken by Lady Fortune snuff 
the Candles — Folly makes the Concert and Time drops 
the Curtain--." 

He also informs the public that " Monday 
Evening's Performance will be appropriated to 
opera, Wednesday, legitimate comedy (and set 
apart as the Fashionable Night,) Fridays, to 
melodrama and spectacle, and Saturdays, to 
tragedy." On the 31st December, 1836, when 
everyone in the house would be making good 
resolutions for the New Year, the following tract 



is appropriately set forth before the caste of 
George Barnwell : — 

A story is recorded, and the facts can be proved by 
many living witnesses, that a young gentleman in the City 
of London, having embezzled a part of his master's 
property, was providentially at a representation of 
George Barnwell at Drury Lane, when that admirable 
actor Mr. Ross personated the character of George 
Barnwell, at whose fate he was so struck to the soul that it 
occasioned his immediate contrition and reformation. 
The gentleman so benefitted by this excellent Tragedy 
was not ashamed to acknowledge his obligation to the 
play and the performer : for at every subsequent yearly 
benefit of Mr. Ross he always received one hundred 
pounds sterling with a card to the following effect — 
Dear Sir — One who is indebted to your admirable 
representation of George Barnwell for more than life, 
for his redeemed honour and credit, begs your acceptance 
of the enclosed, which you will receive yearly as long as 
you continue in the line of your profession. Happy am 
I to acknowledge that the stage has preserved me from 
ruin and disgrace. George Barnwell stopt me in my 
mad career and saved me from an ignominious death. 
I am your grateful friend and servant — " 

It reads now rather more like the advertise- 
ment of a patent medicine than a play, but 



apparently in some such light the worthy man 
who at this time held the helm of the Wakefield 
theatrical ship regarded the drama. He tells 
us on another playbill that it " exercises all the 
kinder emotions, and by its influence over the 
mind and feelings prevents that moral stagna- 
tion which so often tends to degrade and 
brutijy" "It should ever be his study," he 
said, in returning thanks to the public at the 
close of the 1837 season, " to make the Theatre 
both by precept and practice what its advocates 
contend for — A school of eloquence, a temple 
of the arts, the shrine of the muses, the chastener 
of our morals, and the mild but persuasive 
monitress of our duties." ' Art for art's sake ' 
was then an unknown doctrine. These flourishes 
are characteristic of the time, though the kind 
of person is by no means yet extinct who, 
whilst taking his pleasure, desires to be persuaded 
that he is simultaneously improving his mind or 
his morals. Mr. Smedley not only professed to 



cater for this class, but " founded his claim for 
support not on the Professional Talent of his 
Company only, but what to him has ever been 
deemed of the first importance, the Rectitude 
of their Conduct" This, it must be admitted, 
was going quite as far as most managers would 
care to go. In his later years he settled at 
Sleaford, and became a printer and bookseller. 

During the 1835 season, from November 
10th to the beginning of January, 1836, were 
played George Barnwell, Speed the Plough^ 
Town and Country, Guy Mannering, Pizarro, 
The Castle Spectre* Jane Shore, Romeo, Ivanhoe, 
The Heart of Midlothian, The Heir at Law 
(under the patronage of " The Young Gentlemen 
of the Proprietary School"), Married Life y 
Macbeth, The Merchant of Venice, She Stoops to 
Conquer, The Water Witch, The Hunchback, and 
others. A full list of the 1836-7 season has 
already been given. 

Of Smedley's two daughters, the younger, 



Miss Annette Smedley, had the greater liking 
for the stage, and played more important parts 
than her sister. Ophelia, Belvidera, Rebecca 
in Ivanhoe, and Lady Teazle are amongst the 
characters she sustained during the season of 
1836. Miss Smedley, the elder sister, played 
boys' parts, such as the Prince of Wales in 
Richard III., and Paul in The Wandering Boys, 
or girls masquerading as boys, such as Viola. 
She shared this particular line, however, with a 
young lady, apparently of great vivacity and 
versatility, named Desborough, who, besides 
taking the second boys, dancing hornpipes 
' between,' and impersonating the Mrs. Rattle- 
tons and Louisa Lovetricks in all the farces, 
played such parts as Virginia in Sheridan 
Knowles's play, and Madeline Lester in Eugene 
Aram. It seems that Miss Desborough's 
charms made considerable havoc amongst the 
susceptible, and her admirers presented her on 
her benefit night (29th December, 1836,) with 



11 a splendid Gold Watch, Chain and Seals," 
when, as one who was present informs me, 
" she was dressed in white, and looked magnifi- 
cent The names of the Misses Smedley are 
absent from the bill on this presentation evening ; 
and I believe Miss Desborough played no more 
at Wakefield after the end of that season. 
Verb. sap. 

Smedley's management continued for several 
years, his family assisting him in the business. 
Sometimes one of the sons 'tripled* Osric, 
Rosencrantz, and the first Gravedigger on one 
evening, or, if not wanted on the stage, played 
second violin in the orchestra ; and no doubt 
the old gentleman kept them all well employed. 
This domestic combination (and the rectitude 
of the Company's conduct) seem to have been 
sufficient attraction without the assistance of 
' stars,' and I have not found any notable names 
in the bills until November, 1838, in which 
month Henry Betty, the son of the Infant 



Roscius, appeared as Selim in Barbarossa, as 
Alexander, and as Norval in Douglas, and Mr. 
Butler played Virginius, Hamlet, and William 
Tell. On December 5th, 1839, Twelfth Night 
was performed, with Miss Woolgar as Valentine, 
and Mr. Woolgar as Malvolio. Miss Smedley 
was the Viola, and Curio was also played by a 
girl, Miss Wilton. There was at Wakefield a 
child actress of that name, who, a few years 
later, recited epilogues and other dreadful 
things, the daughter of a Mr. and Mrs. Wilton, 
whose names now and then appear amongst 
those of the members of Smedley's Company ; 
but as in 1842 she is described as five years of 
age, she could hardly, making all possible 
allowance for theatrical ages, have played Curio 
in 1839. Neither young lady must be mistaken 
for the Miss Wilton who afterwards became 
Mrs. Bancroft, and who kindly informs me she 
has no recollection of ever having been in 
Wakefield. Woolgar, of course, is a well-known 



name, and so is Young — 'Mr. Young, of the 
Theatre Royal, Drury Lane,' — who appeared on 
the 30th October, 1840, as Gloster, and during 
November and December as Damon in Damon 
and Pythias, Brutus in The Fall of Tarquin, 
Hamlet (for his benefit), Octavian in The 
Mountaineers, Alexander in Alexander the Great, 
Master Walter in The Hunchback, Bertram, 
Jacques in As You Like It, the Chevalier St. 
Franc in The Point of Honour, and Doricourt 
in The Belle's Stratagem. On the 22nd 
December we have The Heir at Law, Homespun. 
Mr. Rayner ; Dick Dowlas, Mr. Bedford ; and 
Doctor Pangloss, "LL.D. and A.S.S.," Mr. 
Smedley ; and on the 23rd The School of Reform, 
Ferment, Mr. Bedford, and Tyke, Mr. Rayner. 
Both Bedford and Rayner were leading come- 
dians in their day, and the latter had succeeded 
Emery in the representation of broad Yorkshire 
parts. Rayner appeared on the 24th as Giles 
in The Miller's Maid, Chip in A Chip of the 



Old Block, and Fixture in A Roland for an 
Oliver \ and on the 26th as Harry Wakefield in 
The Two Drover s, and Paddock in My Spouse 
and I. 

During the season, besides the above, The 
Lady of Lyons ', Naval Engagements, The Maid 
and the Magpie, The Honeymoon, The Love 
Chase, the inevitable George Barnwell, with 
Love, Law, and Physic, Raymond and Agnes, 
and Sheridan Knowles's Love were presented. 
The nights of performing were still (as in 1836, 
except when Conservative Dinners dislocated 
the local theatrical universe) Monday, Wednes- 
day, Friday, and Saturday. On the 30th 
December G. V. Brooke appeared as Othello ; 
on the 1 st January, 1841, and following nights, 
as Ravenswood, Rolla in Pizarro, Selim in 
Barbarossa, Romeo, and O'Callaghan in His 
Last Legs ; and on the 9th, for his benefit, as 
Claude Melnotte, and Lieutenant Kingston in 
Naval Engagements. 



The theatre opened again on May 26th, 
under the management of Mr. Hooper, of the 
York, Hull, and Leeds Theatres, who announced 
(rather late in the day) that he had " added the 
Wakefield Theatre to the York Theatrical Cir- 
cuit," on which occasion Mr. Cathcart, of Covent 
Garden ; Mr. King, of Drury Lane ; Mr. David- 
son, of "The Theatre Royal, English Opera, 
London;" and Mr. and Mrs. Hooper, "late of 
Drury Lane and Madame Vestris's Olympic 
Theatre," appeared. On Saturday, August 14th, 
the Adelphi Company visited Wakefield 'for 
one night only,' including Mr. and Mrs. Yates, 
Mrs. Hooper, Wright, Wieland, Lyon, and 
Paul Bedford. On the 23rd October Charles 
Kean played Hamlet to Mrs. Hooper's Ophelia. 
Dr. Wright relates, apropos of this visit of 
Kean's, how Hooper, the manager, called upon 
him to borrow a skull for the churchyard scene, 
and forgot to return it. As it was sawn in two 
horizontally through the forehead, as skulls 



intended for medical study are, it must have 
required careful handling on the part of Hamlet. 

In May, 1842, Madame Celeste appeared as 
Madeline in St. Mary's Eve, and also in a piece 
called The French Spy, in which she and Mr. 
Pritchard executed a broad-sword combat — no 
doubt the exhilarating * two up and two down * 
business of that day. Bedford was in this 
company, and Madame Celeste danced "La 
Normande " between the plays. On the 14th, 
Mr. and Mrs. Wood made "positively their 
last appearance," in Era Diavolo and The 

On July 9th, Rob Roy and Kate Kearney 
were given, with Mr. and Mrs. Waylett and 
Bedford in the caste. Mrs. Waylett, "The 
Queen of English Ballad," as she is described, 
appeared at Wakefield more than once. 

Early in 1844 the lessees of the theatre were 
Messrs. J. Mosley and Charles Rice, " succes- 
sors to Mr. Smedley." Rice was for many years 

129 K 


at a subsequent period the lessee of the Theatre 
Royal, Bradford, where he and his wife, who 
succeeded to the management of that house 
upon his death, were much respected. In 
March, 1845, Mr. and Miss Vandenhoff appeared 
at Wakefield again, in Love's Sacrifice; and, 
later in the month, Miss Charlotte Cushman, an 
American actress, who had a short time before 
made her first appearance in England. She 
and her sister Susan, it will be remembered, 
used to play Romeo and Juliet together. 

At the commencement of the winter season, 
on December 2nd, this year, it is announced 
that " the stage will be lighted from above in 
the style of the London theatres." On Decem- 
ber 29th was given She Stoops to Conquer — 
Hastings, Mr. Lewis Ball ; Tony Lumpkin, Mr. 
C. Rice; concluding with a "Grand Comic 
Christmas Pantomime." Pantomimes did not 
yet occupy the whole of an evening. Rice was 
in after years celebrated for the production of 



this kind of entertainment, in the days, not so 
very long ago, when it still retained a semblance 
of dramatic form in the shape of a coherent 
plot, and in substance was primarily adapted 
for the amusement of those whom he calls " the 
younger branches." Mr. Ball is still, or very 
lately was, upon the road with the Comptons, 
playing all the old men in their repertory. I 
was glad to find an eulogy of this old actor, 
whom many of us have seen and admired, in an 
article in the Gentleman's Magazine for February 
last, by Mr. Percy Fitzgerald. " Nothing," writes 
Mr. Fitzgerald, "could be more natural, ripe, 
full, or convincing than his interpretations. 
Everything he did was correct, and gave 

On the 22nd February, 1847, Cherry's 
Comedy of The Soldiers Daughter was per- 
formed, the part of Frank Heartall by Mr. 
Sullivan, "of the Theatres Royal, Edinburgh 
and Glasgow." Wakefield was the first town 

131 k 2 


in England in which Barry Sullivan appeared, 
and he remained here during the season, 
playing (March 3rd) Matthew Elmore in Ford's 
Love's Sacrifice, (March 8th) Julius to Vanden- 
hofTs Virginius, (March 9th) Bassanio to 
Vandenhoff's Shylock, (March 12th) The 
Ghost to VandenhofTs Hamlet, (March 16th) 
Sir Edward Mortimer in Colman's Iron Chest, 
(March 19th) Julian in Sheridan Knowles's 
The Wife, (March 20th) Don Felix in Mrs. 
Centime's The Wonder, (March 22nd) Sir 
Giles Overreach in Massinger's A New Way 
to Pay Old Debts, (March 25th, for his benefit) 
Claude Melnotte and Don Felix, and (March 
26th) Faulkland (part hated of actors) in The 
Rivals. On March 5th, Mude, of Drury Lane 
and Haymarket Theatres, played The Stranger 
to Mrs. Pollock's Mrs. Haller, and the next 
evening — which, by the way, was under the 
patronage of Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Wood, " of 
Woolley Moor," where they now resided — the 



same actor appeared in The Honeymoon, which 
was followed by Boots at the George. 

In these days of constant new productions 
it is curious to notice the age of some of the 
plays in the above list. Excepting Shakespeare, 
who, of course, never grows old, A New Way 
to Pay Old Debts and Love's Sacrifice had been 
produced in 1620 and 1633 respectively: The 
Wonder had held the stage for more than a 
hundred and thirty years, and The Iron Chest 
since the end of the eighteenth century. 

We have now arrived at that artistic, middle 
nineteenth century period which saw beauty in 
the crinoline, and amongst other ways of o'er 
stepping the modesty of nature, seems to have 
imagined that tragedy meant noise. I quote again 
from Mr. Fitzgerald's article. 

4< So firmly established is the reign of the romantic or 
realistic system, that it is difficult to conceive that only 
five-and-twenty years ago there were players who tore parts 
to tatters, and mouthed and churned their words. These 
gentry were acceptable, too, and followed. Such was the 



late G. V. Brooke, who now seems to us somewhat of 
Mr. Crummies' pattern. Another of these protagonists, 
who was strangely popular and drew great houses, was 
the late Barry Sullivan, to see whom in the crook'd- 
backed Richard's fright- Gibber's version, bien entendu — 
was an amazing thing. Such roarings, gaspings, growlings 
and ferocious cuttings and drivings could not be conceived 
or described. Nor shall I forget his other dying agonies 
in The Gamester ^ protracted for an immense time. The 
poor gentleman lay on the floor, his family weeping 
round, whilst every instant he was projecting loud 
sustained groans. He writhed and rolled, conveying that 
the poison was actually doing its work, and that he was 
suffering frightful internal agonies. This sort of thing is 
now extinct." 

May it rest in peace. 

In February, 185 1, Mr. Charles Pitt appeared 
in. Hamlet, Macbeth, Richard III. , The Iron 
Chest, The Gamester, Ingomar, The Lady of 
Lyons, and Richelieu, and the theatre opened 
again in September. The Stranger was given 
on the 3rd, and the attention of the audience is 
called by a line in the playbill to "the new act- 
drop, the Church of Santa Maria della Salute, 
Venice." It is also announced that a Ladies' 



Cloak Room is attached to the boxes. The 
principal performers in the company at this time 
were Prescott, Norman, W. P. Vaughan, H. 
Lacey, Wilton, and Misses Juliet Power and 
Marian Douglas ; Stage Manager Mr. Reynolds. 
On the 23rd September was performed Luke 
the Labourer, and The Merchant of Venice, 
compressed into four acts and ending with the 
trial scene; on the 24th, The Taming of the 
Shrew, with the interlude of No / a Pas de Nation 
by Miss Salmon, and the after-piece of The 
Charcoal Burner, This was under the patronage 
of Mr. and Mrs. J. Wood again. Other plays 
were Charles of Sweden, with The Serious 
Family (September 26th) ; John Bull, with 
Bachelors' Buttons (September 29th) ; and in 
October The Mutiny at the Nore, with Tom 
Noddy's Secret, and The Married Rake ; Robert 
Macaire, with The Flowers of the Forest ; My 
Poll and my Partner Joe, with The Lottery 
Ticket, and Everyone has his Fault, the 



"bespeak" of the Medical Profession, who had 

already given their patronage one evening in 

March of this year. 

The playbill of the 15th October drops into 
poetry: — 

" The curtain will rise at seven o'clock, to 

Shakespeare's celebrated Tragedy of King Lear — 

The lapse of ages has no power upon thee, 
Save that like silver from the furnace blaze 
Each trial proves thee of superior value ! . . . 

To conclude, by particular desire with the Fashionable 

Comedy, entitled Nell Gwynne" 

And then, as if it were desirable to white- 
wash Nelly a little before presenting her to the 
unfashionable middle classes, it proceeds — 

" This play is the production of one of the most 
graphic and caustic writers of the day and was merely 
written to shew some glimpses of the ' silver lining ' of the 
character of Nell Gwynne, to whose influence over the 
Merry Monarch, Charles the Second, the English people 
owe a national asylum for veteran soldiers, and whose 
brightness shines with most amiable lustre in many actions 
of her extraordinary career — 

Princes may retire whene'er they please, 
And breathe free air from out their palaces ; 
They go sometimes unknown to shun their state, 
And: then 'tis manners not to know or wait" 



Already there were signs that the theatre 
with difficulty kept up its ancient status. Even 
during Rice's administration he had to give 
notice "that persons entering the Theatre in a 
state of intoxication, smoking, throwing orange 
peel, nut shells, &c, shouting, or personally 
addressing the musicians or other individuals in 
the Theatre, or in any way disturbing or 
annoying the audience, will be instantly removed 
by the constables, who are in constant attend- 
ance to preserve order," and to stipulate that 
"season tickets for the Boxes for ten nights' 
performances can be obtained if applied for by 
parties of known respectability" This is only the 
most specific of a series of similar warnings ; 
and presently to threatened rowdyism c in front ' 
came rascality 'behind.' In 1855 appeared the 
bogus manager ; and disappeared, as his manner 
is, on the eve of the ' treasury ' day, leaving the 
unfortunate company in the lurch. Mr. Thorne, 
in announcing his intention to open the theatre 



in May of that year, laments "the various 
failures that have lately taken place in theatrical 
speculation in the town of Wakefield. At this 
period Infant Phenomena and Strong Men 
"from the Crimea" filled up the numerous 
gaps in the managerial succession. Still the 
prices of admission were maintained, and on 
the 1 2th February, 1859, Charles Mathews 
appeared as Plumper in Cool as a Cucumber, 
The Chevalier in The Comical Countess (the 
Countess being played by Mrs. C. Mathews), 
and as Motley in He would be an Actor. And 
in the hands of Mr. Belton, the manager in 
1859-60, whom Dr. Wright describes as "an 
educated, agreeable gentleman, " the house 
enjoyed another season of prosperity. During 
1859, Ingomar, Macbeth, The Corsican Brothers, 
followed by Beauty and the Beast, and con- 
cluding with The Spectre Bridegroom, Rob Roy, 
and Faust were put on. The Express of 
November 5 th thus speaks of the season : — 



*' Mr. Belton closed the season at Wakefield last 
evening . . . We have to congratulate him on leaving 
behind him a reputation which cannot fail to ensure him 
a cordial welcome when he again visits the town. 
He has conducted the theatre in an admirable manner, 
and has won golden opinions from all the patrons of 
the drama. He himself is a very superior actor, and 
his company are far above the average of provincial 

players Mr. Belton took his benefit on Monday 

evening when the house was crowded. The season 
appropriately wound up with Hamlet, Mr. Belton 
performing in an admirable manner the part of the 
philosophic prince." 

The theatre was open again in May and 
June, i860, under Belton's management, and 
on the 8th of the latter month was played She 
Stoops to Conquer, followed by "a new farce 
called Two Faces under One Hood, written by a 
gentleman of Wakefield" — none other, I am 
informed, than Mr. George Atkinson, the 
present Town Clerk of Liverpool. On October 
1 st, Belton, who also gave readings in the Corn 
Exchange, opened the theatre for a six weeks' 
season, with a repertory including The Wife, 



The Man with the Iron Mask, To Oblige Benson, 
Ingomar, and Never Too Late to Mend. 

In March, 1862, Sir John Hay, M.P., 
patronized the theatre after the old fashion, 
when The Power of Love was in the bill, 
appropriately followed by Betsy 5 Young Man. 
The following year there were two amateur 
performances on February 4th and 6th, given 
by members of the Leeds Rifle Corps, assisted 
by Miss Weston, Miss Macready, and Miss 
Larkin. They interpreted on the first evening 
The Merchant of Venice and The Very Latest 
Edition of the Lady of Lyons, and on the second, 
The Honeymoon and Boots at the Swan. 

Soon after this time, as stated in the first 
section, followed the beerhouse period, which 
can as well be imagined as described, and need 
not be either. The files of the local papers 
know the old theatre no more for many years. 
The decadence of some things is associated 
with much of beauty, but here is but a faint 
afterglow, and it came late. 



On the 17th December, 1883, "The place 
of public amusement in Westgate, formerly 
known as the Theatre Royal, but more recently 
as the Alhambra Music Hall," as the newspaper, 
with almost legal precision puts it, was opened 
by Mr. Sherwood, the new proprietor; "the 
interior renovated, and structurally altered, a 
dress circle provided, and the objectionable bar 
at" the front of the building entirely removed." 
The circle, as already explained, was only a 
circle by courtesy, the house not having been 
(as the vulgar phrase is) built that way ; neither 
was evening dress usually indispensable. But 
the alterations made were distinctly improve- 
ments, though principally confined to the 
entrance and staircases. The theatre was now 
styled the " Royal Opera House." Storm 
Beaten, a dramatised version of one of Robert 
Buchanan's novels, was given, with Edmund 
Tearle and his wife (Miss Kate Clinton) in the 
leading parts. During the first week in the 



New Year the Carl Rosa Opera Company 
appeared in The Bohemian Girl, Trovatorc, 
and Carmen, with Madame Marie Roze in the 
title rdle. For the next few years the manage- 
ment endeavoured to induce the better sort of 
playgoer to frequent the house, and during a 
week's engagement of Mr. Wilson Barrett's 
Proof Company in February, 1885, " distin- 
guished patronage " was secured for two even- 
ings. But it was too hopelessly out of date, 
both "in front" and "behind," and perhaps 
the memory of the "objectionable bar," which 
had to be crossed for nearly twenty years, was 
not easy to obliterate. 

One of D'Oyley Carte's companies per- 
formed in The Mikado for two nights in the 
December following ; but for the most part the 
fare provided may be described as Adelphian 
melodrama, tempered with the legitimate. The 
Crimes of Paris, The House on the Marsh, 
Proved True, No Mercy, The New Magdalen, 



The Colleen Bawn, East Lynne —to take a few 
names at random — with a " Shakespearian n 
week, wherein The Taming of the Shrew is 
played as an afterpiece to The Stranger — are 
all advertised about this time. The last occa- 
sion, probably, on which the pit was invaded 
by the boxes was when Miss Nancy Kemp 
Brammall, a Wakefield lady formerly well 
known as an amateur, played Mary Netley in 
Ours and Tilly in School, as a member of 
Mr. S. Austin's company. But this lapse of the 
Westgate stage into Robertsonian comedy was 
only a digression; more sensational pieces, of 
the class of which The Two Orphans and The 
Grip of Iron (both given at the Wakefield 
theatre during its last year or two) are perhaps 
about the best, better pleased the palates of its 
present patrons. Even this kind of entertain- 
ment had soon to give way to the performing 
elephant and the funambulist. The theatrical 
career of the old building finished when the 




curtain fell on a piece called False Evidence, on 
Wednesday night, November 16th, 1892. 

The new stage occupies the same spot as the 
old one, and may claim continuity with that 
which the Siddons trod. Not always, perhaps, 
was the art exhibited upon it of the highest ; the 
web of its story, as Shakespeare says of that of 
our own lives, is of a mingled yarn, good and ill 
together. But — and this must be my excuse for 
trying to gather up some threads of it — here, on 
this spot, was for Wakefield, during all these 
years, "the glass in which, in every age and 
climate, human life has seen itself reflected, and 
has delighted, beyond all other pleasures, in 
pitying its own sorrows, in learning its own 
story, in watching its own fantastic develop- 
ments, in foreshadowing its own fate, in smiling 
sadly for an hour over the still more fleeting 
representation of its own fleeting joys." 



Anderson, R. G. L., York Street 
Ash, Alfred, Heathfield, Sandal 
Atkinson, C. M., M.A., Town Hall, Leeds 

Banfield, A. E., Opera House, Westgate 

Barratt, Fercival, Bond Street (2 copies) 

Barrett, Wilson, Grand Theatre, Leeds 

Beaumont, Herbert, Hatfeild House 

Benington, Henry, Wentworth Terrace 

Beverley, James, B.A. y South Parade 

Billington, John, 34, Burghley Road, London, N.W. 

Bolland, A. P., Carter Street 

Bolton, Major, Wentworth Terrace 

Brear, Haydn, Northgate 

Bruce, Samuel, LL.B. t J.P. 9 St. John's House 

Bullock, Rev. R. G. P., M.A., St. Martin's Vicarage, 

Burkinshaw, W. H., Victoria Cottage, Balne Lane 

Cater, James, 17, Marlboro' Road, Bradford 
Chadwick, William, 8, Lansdowne Terrace 
Chalmers, Rev. A., St. John's, (2 copies) 
Chapman, Herbert, West Riding Bank 



Charlesworth, John, King Street 

Childe, H. S., St John's Villa 

Claridge, W., M.A., Market Street, Bradford 

Clarkson, Miss, Alverthorpe Hall 

Clarkson, Henry, Alverthorpe Hall 

Curties, Rev. T. Arthur, M.A., St. Michael's Vicarage 

Dickons, J. N., 12, Oak Villas, Manningham 
Dixon, W. Vibart, St. John's 
Dove, John, Westgate Common 

Eastwood, Andrew, Ash Road, Headingley 
Eastwood, Frank, Ash Road, Headingley 
Ellerton, G. V., St. John's 

Farrah, John, Low Harrogate 

Federer, Charles A., L.C.P., 8, Hallfield Road, 

Fennell, Charles W., Wood Street 

Fennell, Richard, 4, Westfield Park 

Fennell, Walter, Snow Hill View 

Fernandes, G. W. L., Ackworth House, Pontefract 

Fernandes, J. L., Tavora House, Grange-over-Sands 

Galloway, F. C, Greenfield House, West Bowling, 

Gentlemen's Book Club, The (R. E. Langhorne) 



Glossop, Wm., Beckett's Bank Chambers, Bradford 

Glover, B. F., Wood Street 

Goldsbrough, G. H., Field Head, Stanley 

Gould, G. D., St. John's 

Graham, C. E., Registry Cottage 

Greaves, J. 0.,J.P., St. John's 

Green, Captain H. G. E., St. John's 

Haigh, Miss, Ivy Cottage, Stanley 
Haigh, Jonathan, St. John's (2 copies) 
Hainsworth, Lewis, 44, Tyrrel Street, Bradford 
Haldane, G. W., Sandal 
Hall, John, 9, Westgate 
Haworth, F. Ernest, Stanley Grange 
Hesling, John, Rydal Mount, Leeds Road 
Hick, Matthew B., St. John's (3 copies) 
Holmes, George, Harthill, Sheffield 
Home, W. F. L., B.A., Sandal 
Hughes, W. H., 33, Park Lane 
Hurst, Mrs., Crofton Old Hall 

Jaggar, Joseph, 17, Bradford Road 

Kingswell, W. H., Northgate 
Knight, Miss, 8, Lansdowne Terrace 



Langhorne, R. E., Woolley Moor House, Chapelthorpe 

Leatham, Claude, Wentbridge, Pontefract 

Lee, Fred, Northgate 

Lee, J. H., 15, St. John's Square 

Lewis, Mrs. Bevan, West Riding Asylum 

Manton, John N., L.D.S., R.S.C.^Eng., South Parade 

Marks, W. W., Shire Hall, Bedford 

Marriott, W. T., ././*., Sandal Grange (2 copies) 

Masterman, George, King Street 

Merry, M. F., 14, St. John's Square 

Mortimer, Charles, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, U.S.A. 

Northorpe, W. L., St. John's 
Norwood, Captain W., Snow Hill View 

Oxley, Miss Frances E., Bond Street 

Parkinson, Mrs., Springfield Place, Barnsley 

Peacock, Matthew H., M.A., Mus. Bac., Grammar 

Perkin, F. K., Northgate 

Pickard, W., West Riding Registry of Deeds 

Pickering, T. W., Attleborough, Nuneaton 

Plews, H., St. John's Square 

Poppleton, Richard, Stonecliffe, Horbury 

Preston, T. L. C, 6, Eastmoor Road 



Radford, Geo. H., LL.B., 40, Chancery Lane, London 

Roberts, C. C, Snow Hill Lodge 

Roberts, George, Lofthouse 

Roche, G. B., The Towers, Bond Street 

Scott, John, Sandal 
Senior, Mrs., Bond Street 
Sherwood, B., Opera House, Westgate 
Simpson, Fred, Westfield Grove 
Simpson, J. F., 211, Kirkgate 
Skidmore, Charles, Bradford (2 copies) 
Smith, A. D., Stoneleigh, Stanley 
Statter, W. A., Thornhill House 
Swire, John, Westfield Grove 

Taylor, Major, J. P., The Towers, Bond Street 
Tomlinson, W. H. B., /./>., Cliffe Tree House 
Townend, W., Oakenshaw (2 copies) 

Wadsworth, Mrs., Belgravia Towers, St. John's 

Walker, H. Seeker, Park Square, Leeds 

Walker, Thomas, /.P., Oakwood Grange, Roundhay, 

Walker, J. W., F.S.A., The Elms, Bond Street 

Watson, William, The Gables, St. John's 

West, Stephen H., M.A. y Hatfeild Hall, Stanley 

I 5 I 


White, J. Fletcher, St. John's 
Whitelegge, B. A., M.D., St. John's 
Whiteley, B., F.I.J., Caxton House 
Winter, William, Poulton Road, Southport 
Wood, Butler, Free Library, Bradford 
Wright, T. G., M.D.y Northgate